I long for it all week. The drive up to San Francisco Bay with my earbuds in listening to Dean Lewis thinking about the hot chocolate from the Ghiradelli store. Right across the decadent building is Aquatic Park. A body of water with the wharf extenting like a hug embracing the waves daring it to grow wild. On some Sundays it is foggy and on others the sky is untouched my persistent clouds. But every Sunday the quietness of the sea and the saltiness beckons for me and I make no objections. At first, the intitial shock of engulfing one’s body in the 54 degree water is utterly terrifying. My breath quickens and my body is unsure of how to swim. But slowly, I listen to the rhythmn of my stroke and as my feet leave the comforting edge of the sand, I allow myself to float away from the loudness of my thoughts and the city.
One Sunday, no less ordinary than the one before and the one that would soon follow, I was walking across the pier just before my swim and heard Mr. Reed, one of the fisherman that would occasionally stop his boat to wave at us, screamed hysterically at the other fisherman.
I sprinted toward him and when I came within an arms length he grabbed me murmuring “Eden. Its are gone. I can feel it.”
“Mr. Reed please calm down” I insisted. “What is gone?”
He looked me dead in the eye the red lacing his irises and he whispered “Life”.
“Life?” I shook my head in disbelief. I kept pleading him to tell me what on earth he was startled about but he laughed a bitter laugh.
“In the water. You will feel it too” he cackled.
He let me go yet I felt a coldness that even the San Francisco waters couldn’t impart on me.
I shuffled back to the bleachers where I met Ricardo, the man who kayaked with our open water swim group every Sunday.
“Hey Eden! Are you alright?” he called “You seem a little pale.”
“Must be the air” I laughed half-heartedly.
“Oh okay if you say so. Come on we are going to get started any second now” Ricardo answered with a hint of concern. He wasn’t the type to dwell of push for more.
I breathed a little deeper. As I stared at the water from the shore there was something disheartening about the way it moved today. I must be going crazier than Mr. Reed I thought.
I dipped my foot in and let it drag while more of my body became engulfed in the deep blue. I dove in and felt the tingling of the cold water once more. It was refreshing like peppermint. As we made our way past the buoy, I felt something change within the water. Oh come on Mr. Reed is just getting in your head.
“Stop! Stop!” Ricardo called.
Fifteen bright swim-caps turned to face him. The water just 15 feet from us was a murky shade of auburn-like brown. There was something splashing in the gunk and suddenly, the thrashing slowed down to an ominous stop.
“Eden don’t even think about…” Ricardo called.
Before he could finish his sentence, I was already swimming toward the creature. The stink of the substance was mind-numbing and my body became glossy with it. It was a sea turtle.
“My God.” I whispered. It was an oil spill.
The turtle shook its head as I approached. It was inhaling and ingesting it. The back of its shell was coated with the oil. I slowly extended my arm to move it. The visibility was less than idea as I attempted to rub the brown slime from the goggles yet there was a persistent film that remained. Finally, I moved to the turtle into an air with clear water. I had no means to take it back with me. It shivered slightly as if rejecting the oil and remained still for brief moments. I glanced at Ricardo and couldn’t read his expression. The turtle paddled slowly and then made its way deeper into the water until I could see it no longer.
“We have to move back. The pipe broke” Ricardo yelled.
“Please stay safe.” I whispered.
Swimming back toward cove, I felt my heart sink to the bottom of this place I considered home. The turtle would not be the last victim.