My lungs gasp for air as the first wave crashes down. I did not know it at the time, but that would be the first in a long line of floods that would knock the wind out of me and pull me under. Every muscle in my body aches as I try to hold on just a little bit longer, fight just a little bit harder, holding out for the hope that I might be able to catch a breath soon. The waves tumble down one after another, no breaks, no breaths, only water. All that I am able to think about is the air, what I would do to be reunited with it; with the air comes freedom, comes joy, comes rest. With the water, all that comes is breathlessness. Wave after wave, impact after impact, it never ceases. The surge shows no mercy, holds none back. I know that my body will not be able to take much more before it becomes too much, before I succumb to the swell. Hands reach out to help me, for their waves are not as big as mine. It is no use; the waves are too high, I can not stretch to meet their hands. I can barely even see them, assuring me that they are there, but serving no aid in the battle between me and the current. My heart knows that I have to keep fighting, keep pushing, hold out just a little bit longer; my body tells me to give in, to allow the waves to take over my existence. The fight to survive, the battle to continue is much more painful than the one second that it takes to quit. I am going to do it, I tell myself, I am going to give up; you win, water. I close my eyes and brace myself for that final wave that will take me out, drag me under, end my suffering. This is what is best, I hear myself speak, everything will be over in a minute.
Just as I sink under the tide, the water parts for a moment, a grace period. The waves have shown me mercy long enough for me to gasp in a breath and reach out for a hand nearby. It is not much, but it is something. The flood returns just as I begin to catch my breath. My body continues to ache as crash after crash barrels down on top of me, my hand remains clenched around the outstretched hand, holding on for dear life. The air I breathed gave me strength; not a lot, but enough to make it until I get another part in the waters. The surge rumbles on and on, hitting me with everything that it has. You have to try, Katie, you have to try. I cling to the hand extended toward me. Though I cannot see who it belongs to, I know that someone is there, someone is trying to help.
The water parts and I wheeze, trying to soak in all of the strength from the oxygen before the tsunami begins again. I feel two more hands grab onto my arm, then another, and another. This break is longer, the air more plentiful. I am held in suspense, ready to fight the next round of swells, but they never come. My eyes begin to focus as I catch my breath for the first time. Slowly, the hands that have been reaching for me all this time pull me up out of the water and help me into the boat. I crash onto the floor, exhausted and unable to recover my sense of logic for what feels like years; however, it must have only been minutes, because soon I find myself sitting up and recognizing the faces of my loved ones surrounding me, there for me as I begin to recover my senses. With every breath comes sharp pain in my chest, just over my heart.
Over the horizon, I see the swell of another round of waves, but this time, I know that I will survive because I am in the boat. I begin to see the waves coming and by the time they reach me, they are much smaller than when they first started. I can prepare myself and take precautions that will enhance my chance of survival. Though I do not know how they do it, my loved ones block some of the waves so that I only get splashed instead of drenched.
As we float, the tides slow down. They never stop, but they slow, and now I can see them coming. I know that I will survive any splash because I survived the drowning. I have my people to protect me, to help me catch my breath when I get too wet. The pain in my chest, I know that it will never go away. Every warrior leaves a battle with a scar; mine is on my heart. The scar reminds me of the fight that I fought, that I won, to get to where I am today and to where I am going. It reminds me of the fight that I still fight. I cling to the scar because it reminds me of what made me strong.