Affliction

I poured two cups of coffee; one for me, one for him. I set them down on the unfinished table and the clang of ceramic on wood violated the silence. I sipped my coffee gingerly so not to burn my tongue, staring at the untouched cup of coffee across from me, an unbreakable habit. It had been any other August day, the palm trees danced in the breeze and everyone wore tank tops and shorts to stay cool in the one-hundred degree weather.

Everyone went to the lake to keep cool. We were young and adventurous, nothing stopped us. It was his idea to race to the rope swing. I could never turn down a challenge, especially a swimming race. I use to do swim team. I dived in the water, my arms perfectly pointed and my legs clenched together. The smooth, cool water hit my body as soon as my arms felt the water they started moving, pushing my body forward and my legs following behind kicking. With each stroke I felt my lungs tighten, but competition ran through my veins so I held it longer. I felt the impact of his body crashing in the water behind me, but I soon pulled ahead, leaving him behind. I was stoked, I had a good lead. As the sand on the bottom of the lake came closer I knew I was almost there. My body was tired and my lungs were tight. As my feet touched the ground I stood up and yelled my victory. I wringed my long black hair out and started to look for how bad I had beaten him. I didn’t see him close to shore and thought that I had him good. I used my hand to shade my eyes from the sun so I could get a better look. I didn’t see him. He must be moving slow, I thought. I was tired so I laid on the hot beach to catch my breath. The breeze picked up and the rope swing went back and forth, back and forth. The grainy sand stuck to my wet bathing suit and the ring on my left hand glimmered in the sunlight. I smiled remembering that great day. It had been a few minutes and I started becoming concerned. I looked out at the water but still no sign of him. Panic hit me, hard. Without a thought I leaped into the water and frantically started pumping my arms and kicking my feet. My heart felt like a jackhammer in my chest. My brain was going a million miles an hour. I stuck my head out of the water, my legs kicking hard to keep me afloat. I screamed for him, but still I didn’t see him. Silently, I pleaded to God as I swam further, hoping that he would help me find him safe. I couldn’t lose him. That thought made me pump even harder. I tried to self-consciously cheer myself up, I bet he’s on shore laughing at me right now, smiling his movie star smile that could always melt me. I stuck my head up and called his name, no response. But in the distance I see something bobbing in the waves created by the passing boats. I screamed with terror. As I came closer to it, I realize it’s him, facedown. His Hawaiian print swim trunks were unmistakable. My heart stopped. I flipped over his heavy body, and saw his lifeless, blue face, blood poured from a gash in his head. He had hit his head on a fallen tree in the water. I screamed for help but no one heard me over the motors of boats and music playing. I wrapped his arms around my neck and propped his head up out of the water. I pushed off on the fallen tree and did my best to swim to shore with him on my back. As we got closer to shore people started to notice what was going on. My heart was racing as a man swam towards us full force and took him off my shoulders. His blood was all around me and I was beyond the point of exhaustion but I didn’t give up. As we reached the shore a lady who told me she was a nurse tried CPR. She opened his mouth and puffed then pressed on his chest, but nothing happened. She did this over and over again as a crowd formed. I sat on the sand holding his hand and praying like I’ve never prayed before. I prayed to God, Jesus, Allah, Buddha, every God I could remember from my religion history class at the community college. His body wasn’t responding and the lady kept trying with no success. I couldn’t breath and I was choked with sobs. The ambulance sirens approached in the background. The rest happened so fast. The paramedics put him on a stretcher and put an oxygen mask on him. I watched in shock. Just an hour ago he had thrown me over his shoulder and laughed a laugh full of vitality, but now he laid there, lifeless. During the time I’d been on shore someone had put a towel over my shoulders but I hadn’t even noticed. He was pronounced dead on the scene. So was I. My whole world was spinning. When they went to take him away in the ambulance I didn’t want to let go of his hand, this is the last time I’d feel the warmth of my hand in his. They let me sit with him for a few minutes in the ambulance before they took him away. He looked like he was just sleeping, so peacefully. I had seen him look like that the same morning I woke up. But this time he wasn’t going to wake up. The thought made more tears run down my cheeks and shake even harder with sobs. I started to yell at him, and shake him. Telling him to wake up then yelling at him for not wearing his goggles; he could never open his eyes under water. I always made fun of him for that. Then the yelling ceased and I collapsed on his bare chest, squeezing him tight and trying to leave this earth with him. The paramedic knocked on the door and apologized but told me they had to leave in a minute. That would be the last minute I’d ever be alone with the love of my life. I kissed his hand and lightly kissed his lips. Trembling, I left the ambulance. All the pity stares made me want to disappear. I felt as if I was standing their naked, stripped off all my dignity, standing there completely raw. After that I don’t remember much.

I sip the rest of my coffee and stare at his full mug across from me. I pick up his full mug, the one with the picture of us on it, from that cheesy like kiosk in the mall. I watch the dark liquid swirl down the drain as I pour it out, then I carefully wash and dry it, place it carefully in the cabinet between my mug and the wine glasses, to be refilled the next day.





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