Friday, March 04, 2011

Washed Away

This week's response to the Red Writing Hood prompt is an exploration of my (somewhat fuzzy) memory of a day during the summer after my junior year in high school.

Early summer afternoons at the Harbor Market could be extremely boring or very busy. It was hard to predict from day to day. On this day, it wasn't particularly busy. I stood at the cash register, methodically keying the prices of a customer's grocery selections into the machine and bagging each item. I took the customer's money and quickly but carefully counted out the change.

"Have a great afternoon," I said, smiling.

As the customer walked away, the phone rang. "Hi honey," my mom said. "You're not alone there, are you?"

My heart beat faster, pounding in my chest. That question never preceded good news.

"No, Stacie's here. And Penny. What happened?"

"There was an accident at the jump off. Tom and a friend were swimming with some girls and the water's really choppy today," she said.

I interrupted her. "Who was the friend?"

"I don't know his name, honey. They didn't say, but I think it was the one he's always with."

"Marc? Was it Marc?" I asked, frantic to know the details.

"I'm not sure."

"What happened? Are they okay?"

She paused for a moment, probably wondering how much detail she should give me. "Tom and the girls are fine. Shaken up, but they're okay. The undertow was really pulled the friend under. Tom tried to get him, but he lost his grip. He couldn't hold onto him. Search and Rescue is looking for him now, but the chances aren't good."

I just listened, silent. It couldn't be. She was wrong. This was a mistake. I knew it was Marc. It had to be. But he was too young. I just saw him. They'd find him. But what if they didn't? What about Marc's brother Todd? What about his parents? How would that survive losing him?

My mind raced with logical explanations and dozens of reasons why Marc couldn't possibly have drowned. I don't remember hanging up the phone, or even leaving the register. I found my way to the back of the store where Stacie and I held each other and cried, waiting for more news. Waiting for confirmation that Marc was gone.

They found Marc's body, which I never saw again, along the rocky shore of the harbor. The water had claimed him, taken him violently from us. That summer our small high school, so many of whom knew Marc personally, said good-bye to a vibrant, fun-loving young man in the prime of his life. We said good-bye to our invincibility, to our innocence. The water washed them away, along with Marc's last breath.

It was as if Marc's death came with a message: "Life is hard. The world is full of threats and danger, and we are all vulnerable."

How could we not be when even our beautiful, peaceful lake could take our loved ones away without a second thought?

This post was written in response to the new weekly prompt at The Red Dress Club created to help develop memoir writing skills.

Water gives life. It also takes it away. Write a short piece - fiction or non-fiction - inspired by one or both of these statements. Word maximum is 600.

Constructive criticism is welcome.


Random Girl said...

Beautifully written and very touching. It was certainly a tough life lesson but one best learned early.

Valerie Boersma said...

I remember a college friend drowning in the local lake one summer after the end of school-and how my world tilted on its axis. It didn't seem possible that a place where everyone had so much fun could also be the site of such unimaginable tragedy.
Oh, the paradox of water.
Great job with this prompt!

Carrie said...

What a horrible thing to have to deal with. I'm so sorry about your friend.

Visiting from RDC

Anonymous said...

Very very poignant; the feeling of inward pain is almost palpable in the telling of this story. Thank you for sharing

Jennifer said...

I thought you did a great job of capturing that moment of realization when we realize that many of the things we love most in life can also take our lives away.

Shell said...

What a difficult thing to go through!

The mom in me is cringing and wanting to keep my boys in safe little bubbles, knowing that things like this can happen.

Ami said...

Thanks for all the great comments! I'll be coming around to see your posts soon.

Cristina said...

I loved how you built the tension.
I really enjoyed your piece

Anonymous said...

Wow. Was this fiction or non fiction?

If it was fiction, you did a great job of building up the anxiety.

If it was non-fiction, ditto, but also, what a tragic lesson to learn so early in life.

Jill said...

Ugh. I hate these stories, but you did an AMAZING job telling this one. Very well done!

Jessica Anne said...

This made me tear up. So tragic. You did a great job conveying the emotion and the anxiety of not knowing.

Stacey said...

That is so sad. My brother-in-law lost his best friend to a boating accident. It makes life feel so much more fragile when someone you know is taken like that. You wrote it beautifully.

Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

Every summer our lake always claims a few people. They're so much more powerful than people know. Very nice capture on this one!

Stasha said...

What a horrible thing to have to go through! Lakes are just as unpredictable as a river or the ocean.

So sorry that you lost your friend.

CDG said...

What resonates most strongly with me is the sense of inevitability that threads quietly through it. The same kind of inevitability that exists in communities near water--a knowledge of the power and threat is poses, even while it provides so much.

Mommy Shorts said...

I remember the boy who died freshman year of high school. Such a rude awakening for kids who think they are immortal. For you, I imagine it was even more upsetting being that it was at a place that you had previously associated with positive memories. Very well written.

Jen Has A Pen said...

I had chills. Such a sad, sad story. :-( Great job!

Unknown said...

Oh Ami...this makes my heart just ache and burn. I hope it's mostly fiction, and if it's not? I am sending you giant hugs. I know you said it was a fuzzy memory....

I'm thrilled you linked up and was so happy to see you here! Yay!


Unknown said...

Heartbreaking and gave me chills. I'm so sorry you lost your friend.

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