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Drowning...In Three Feet Of Water

By , Franklin, WI
Laughing, splashing, and playing tricks on your friends are all familiar memories that go with water parks, but near death experiences-they usually aren’t the first thing that comes to mind. This also applies to drowning.; even if the thought of drowning does cross their mind, most people imagine drowning in deep water, but don’t even consider drowning in shallow, three feet deep water.

My feet slapped the ground as I power walked to the pile of inner tubes. My cousin and I grabbed a double inner tube, and descended into the water. Cool water embraced us, tickling our skin with playfulness. Reawakened, tiny bursts of shock exploding on the surface, we panted, with a grin plastered on our faces. After hours of swimming, going on waterslides, and giggling like crazy, we were exhausted and the Lazy River seemed like the perfect place to cool off.

Blue Harbor isn’t the only water park with a lazy river, but I will never forget this one. My uncle from California, who was a practical joker, was visiting for winter break. He was playing tricks on us, and my cousin and I returned the favor. We turned back giggling as our uncle emerged from the pool, and selected a single inner tube for himself, slowly trudging towards the Lazy River. As we climbed into our inner tubes, laughing, we had no idea what was to come. Never could we have guessed that this slow, half a mile per hour river filled with mothers and their infants, grandparents, and people who couldn’t swim or weren’t adventurous enough to go on the waterslides, could have been deadly.

In the meantime we’d played a few tricks on my uncle and now…payback time! Weaving through throngs of people startling each other, that perfect “O” formation of the other’s lips, the wide eyes, and the sharp intake of breath – this is what we lived for. After all, it’s all fun and games…until someone gets hurt. Plopping into our tube, the shenanigans began. We attempted to tip over our 6’ 3’’, 250 lb mass of an uncle…failing. For a while, we pushed the sides, but he didn’t budge an inch, but there was a significant amount of splashing and yelling. Noise richocheted off the walls, bouncing around as recklessly as we were. We glanced in the direction of the lifeguard to see if he minded. He didn’t. In fact, he looked like he could care less about what we were doing. Devoid of expression, his eyes stared blankly ahead, as if to memorize the “No horseplay!” sign. Unmoving, with his mouth slightly agape, he could have been dead (from boredom). He turned his head, slightly, yet not toward the source of the ruckus. He didn’t yell “Water you doing?.” If he didn’t sea us, we were not a problem, just some kids trying to have a maritime. So with nothing stopping us, we climbed out of our tubes and started messing around, splashing each other, swimming, and of course, tube-tipping.

Exhausted, we returned to our tube, our efforts to tip over our uncle fruitless. Before long, the escapade evanced, and our uncle was forgotten, well at least the idea of tipping him over was. I collapsed into the seat next to my cousin’s as a wave of weakness wahed over my body, as terror soon would. Caught up in chatter and exchanging jokes, we didn’t notice the shadow below the surface of the water. All of a sudden that shadow took form - as a figure seeming to rise out of the water behind us, not unlike Poseidon. But believe me, this was no mythological god of the sea – it was our very real uncle trying to look scary (or funny, it was hard to tell which), trying to do the evil maniacal laugh reproduced in countless movies. During his attempt to scare us (we just laughed) he put his hands on the back of the inner tube, unfortunately the side that I was on, lifting me up in the air. Suddenly, I was rising higher and higher ascending to such a slope, my tube had transformed into a slide.

Our screams, tiny kicks, and weak punches were no match for this spectacular display of tube-tipping. Slipping into the water first, my cousin resurfaced a second later with a shout of joy and burst out laughing when she saw me still up there. Everything was happening too fast, my brain couldn’t process what was going on. The world was tilting on its side, and I was losing my grip (on the tube, I mean). My uneaten lunch was starting to make its way back up, creeping up as slowly as the feeling of dread I should have felt. Before I knew it, I was slipping, tumbling, and then rolling down the inner tube in just seconds, accelerating into the water with a plop. I felt a whoosh in my stomach, and a thrill went through me-this was amazing! Emerging out of the water with smile, I yelled along with my cousin at my uncle, about why he tipped us over, when honestly, we had both loved the experience. Still on the adrenaline rush from the fall, we tried to get back at him as well. In just a short while, we snuck up behind him, and succeeded with the impossible; we threw off his balance and tipped him into the water. As he flopped onto the water, smacking it with his body, we cheered, applauding ourselves for revenge. Popping back up, he laughed with us, congratulating our pranking endeavor.

So, my cousin and I went back to floating, well, lazily in the Lazy River for a while. Then it happened. Our uncle decided to come back, and tip us over again, because we had admitted how much we liked it, and wouldn’t mind too much if he did it again.

Just like before, he started lifting us up, but something was wrong this time. Maybe it was because, we knew what was going to happen, or it went by faster this time, or for some reason, we didn’t land quite right. Whatever the case was, I hurtled into the water with a bloodcurdling scream. My cousin, the first one to have fallen into the water, had already resurfaced and was yelling with our uncle, letting out cheers. Through the frenzy of it all, they didn’t notice my absence, or maybe they figured that I was already out, and was drying off or going to the bathroom, but they just didn’t hear me with all the chaos erupting. But I didn’t see any of this. All I saw was me going down into the water, not quite tumbling down right. A tangle of feet, arms, my hair, and my blue bathing suit all crashed into the water with a Plop! The aria of yelling, laughing, and screaming ceased, as I was thrown into the eerie calm of the water. While the noise above had been deafening, the silence below was much louder.

Luckily, I was on my feet again in the water, crouching, you could call it. I tried to get up, but that wasn’t possible. The river was filled with too many tubes there was no clearing for me to resurface. In the water it was shallow, only three feet or so, which meant I could stand up. It was narrow too - I could easily touch both sides with my arms out. Groping around the rough walls, I was blind and deaf. Worse, I was alone, with no sense of direction, unable to breathe, with the pressure of the water compressing against my chest.

Nightmarishly, I was trapped in a short, narrow hallway, stuck under countless moving bodies. I couldn’t move up, down, barely left or right – I was stuck.

Unable to asses the situation this way, I realized it was time to open my eyes. Stinging and burning from cholorine, vision didn’t help much. Everything was blurry and distorted, even more so because a contact fell out. All I could see was blue, and up ahead of me was orange, the tube. The stinging hurt too much, so I shut my eyes to protect them. I couldn’t focus on getting out if I was preoccupied with pain. Ack! I was blind again, so I opened my eyes a tiny bit, glaring though the water with minimal visibility.

Trying to stay optimistic, I kept thinking, Just a while longer, just keep looking up; maybe you’ll see a clearing. The truth was, I didn’t see any openings but I continued to put my arms up, trying to push the tubes on top of me. They felt so heavy. Every ounce of energy within me had been drained, and I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast 5 hours ago. I tired to chanel my nonexistent power through my weakling arms, but to no avail. I just could not lift them up, for the life of me…literally.

Worst of all, nobody knew I was down here. After a while my uncle and cousin would look up, and around, if they were worried and realized something was wrong, and I wasn’t in the bathroom, or getting a drink. Even if they thought to look under, by the time, they could finally push through the current, and the throb of people on inner tubes, it could be too late.

I was tired. Drowsy, my eyes started drooping. People always talk about seeing your life flash before your eyes, but I honestly don’t remember that happening to me. I believe somewhere in the back of my mind, when I wasn’t trying to envision how someone would help me or if I could save myself, I remember thinking I should’ve told my parents and brother I loved them once more before I went in the lazy river. Although I tell them this everyday, but one little “I love you”, would’ve made me feel better.

Somewhere in my mind, I might have felt a little mad at my uncle and at myself for the whole stupid tube-tipping idea, but it didn’t matter, I was feeling kind of numb. What I do however, remember is that my swimsuit was blue, and the water looked blue, and everything was so blue, so blue. I remember having my hair float around my face, and having the strangest feeling that I was floating, even though I wasn’t at all above the water.

When I was little, I almost always won at breath holding contests underwater. Keeping this in mind, I told myself to just let out a little bit of air at a time. I did that, but soon, I had just exhaled my last bit of air, and my lungs were screaming in agony. I needed to inhale, my chest was trembling. Just hold on a little longer, or else you’ll take in a bunch of water, I told myself, but soon I couldn’t take it any longer. I breathed in.

Immediately my nose and mouth filled with water, my poison turned into tonic. Sucking everything in, I was sucking in power. Suddenly it was as if I had all the energy in the world. With surprising strength I shot out of the water, and not a second too late either. I was coughing, and retching, and sputtering all over the place. My eyes were streaming and burning. After I coughed up a decent waterfall, and I could finally breathe again, I cried (so I obviously didn’t go back to breathing quite normally.) My checks were already salty. I might have been crying down in the water and not realized it. I just didn’t stop, even as I had sprung up to the surface.

While I cried, my uncle and cousin comforted me. At first I wouldn’t talk to my uncle, but soon I forgave him, because it was as much as my fault as it was his. Then I realized that if something happened, to me, I wouldn’t want anyone to feel responsible for it, because that would be a horrible burden to carry. Right then I decided that instead of holding grudges, being forgiving was the way to go, because if you died tomorrow, wouldn’t you wish, for a split second, that you would have told everybody you cared?

From now on, I never go anywhere without telling my family that I love them. I send out a good night text to my friends every night, with an inspirational quote close to my heart, in case I die in my sleep or don’t see them the next day. It may sound morbid, but anything could be your last moment, and I recognize that now. While I was underwater, my greatest regret was not what I had missed in my own life, but what I had forgotten to share in the lives of my loved ones – how much I cared for them. Unfortunately, this near drowning experience has made me claustrophobic because I can never forget the terrible feeling of the walls in the river being too small, the water closing in on me. However, this encourages me to play it safe and not try dangerous things. Even if they seem harmless, they might not be. It’s a lesson: Don’t be afraid to reach out, and let people know you care before it’s too late. Take what life gives you and treat it well because it’s precious. Why is it precious? It’s precious because it’s your life.





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