Water Gesture

June 9, 2008
By Tyler Martin, Detroit, MI

The sunshine tasted hard that Sunday morning. It was more acidic than the lukewarm glass of orange juice on the table. Outside of the window, the wind was at rest, holding a sunken grudge against the flowers. After long intervals of time they dipped gently to the side, stubborn and unwilling to go any further. It was a lazy sort of day that was full of urgencies I didn’t want to address. After spending a fantasy summer in the country, it was difficult to leave.
My favorite memory of it was the night that Deke and I spent in the field. We just sprawled around the bonfire, faces to the sky, and discussed our tragedies like they were the most common things ever. Like we were just shooting the breeze, old friends catching up. That was the first day we met, and I could immediately tell that Deke was a person you could do that with.
The only way I could justify leaving him was to count the advantages of the city. I got up to two. Those few unforgettable nights when you’re dazzled by the city lights, which blaze in and out of consciousness like fireflies. The smell of Japanese food across the street that gets your teeth swimming in saliva, met with the flamboyant flash of a sign in random Chinese characters that make no sense together—or in the window at all because it’s an “authentic” Japanese restaurant. The other advantage was more abstract, more of an occurrence than a feeling. It was the noise that kept you company. If nothing else did, the whoops and hollers of drunks wandering the streets would certainly do the job. Then there was the infamous dog barking nonstop for no reason to the symphony of police sirens in the background. Mixed with the silver jazz-inspired piano compositions by my upstairs neighbor, these sounds became my lullaby.
The urgency to finish packing bit at me like an angry dog at my heels, as I continued remembering. It was odd how two thoughts suddenly made me miss home.
I knew I would miss him more. I absolutely had to say goodbye. I packed in a desperate daze, finally watching my things disappear from the shelves. It was time to go. Everything else was ready but still I wasn’t. My aunt pushed me out with the gentleness of a breath, yet it seemed she was eager to have her extra room back.
While in the car with my aunt, jerking along the gritty road, I saw the old canoeing lake behind a filter of foliage. I asked her to stop the car for a moment so I could get something I left behind- a lie. She sighed, and stared at the clock a long moment before she agreed. When I got out, she stayed in the car and reached into the glove compartment, pulling out an old Christian pamphlet to pass the time.
I walked along the dock, ignoring the huge gaps that frightened me the first time. Now they were singed into my memory like a pattern. I didn’t even need to look down to avoid them anymore. Deke guided me over them so many times, I stopped holding his hand a while back. He was generally such a crazy person I was surprised he never just pushed me off. I would have thought it was the funniest thing ever, but I’m sure he wouldn’t have.
When I reached the edge, I stood lifeless for a moment, taking in the glimmer of everything. The slight ripples in the water that echoed like sound vibrations; invisible and resonate. It was relaxing to look at, and that must explain the rush of the water from my eyes soon after. Those tears were the warm kind that are still there after you dab them away with the back of your hand. I felt them still. Deke promised to meet me there at that exact time, and I didn’t see him yet, but his face kept showing up in the snapshots of our summer in my mind that projected onto the water like a slideshow.
When I looked more shallowly at the water, I saw my reflection in it. Deke either wasn’t coming or he was coming too late. I had to do something, someway to prolong my visit or to just say goodbye in a final way. Suddenly, the idea jumped out at me like a child at a surprise party. I waited shortly for the moment when my aunt went back to studying ‘Why Jesus Loves You’ and decided to take the chance. While I glanced over at the car with nervous eyes, there Deke was, walking on his way over. Even better, I thought.
In one quick and clumsy motion I half-jumped, half-slipped into the lake, soon submerged in water that was from the Arctic. Shivering and slithering to the surface, I now knew that I had finally said goodbye to my summer with the sweetest, simplest gesture that I could think of, and I was sure that Deke agreed. I had water in my nose, and my shoes were weighing me down, but it was the best feeling ever. When I reached the surface, taking that newborn breath, I could hear his bright laughter as I swam in place near the dock with my eyes closed, my muscles tight, and my heart beating out of rhythm at the sound. The very next sound was a splash, and the very next sight, Deke.

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