Although it was late in the evening, the sun continued to beam down on me. The sun was sinking into the water like ink seeping into paper. I felt a warm southern breeze sweep past my body as I faced the sea. My light blue kayak bobbed up and down as it floated over the gentle waves. I continued paddling lightly on my kayak whilst admiring the peaceful serenity of the water. Little did I know that this once soothing atmosphere, would take such a dramatic change.
As I looked further to the sea, I saw a motionless figure. It seemed unusual to me that anyone would be swimming that far out. Intrigue drew me in. I needed to investigate. The bright rays of the sun made my vision of the figure inconsistent. To my horror, I discovered a motionless body floating on the water. She was an over-weight woman wearing a black and white swimsuit with her head facing down in the water. For a moment I was in utter denial until my senses screamed the obvious truth to me. From my small kayak, I leaped into the deep water and begun to swim determinedly towards the drowned women. I had no idea whether or not she had been dead for days or months as her face only represented death to me. The world around me had slowed down to a standstill as I looked on the face. The thick foam coming from her mouth ran beside her pale, wrinkly cheeks. I guessed she would have been a grandma. I grabbed her lifeless arms. Despite the urgency from the shock, the moment my arm grasped the arm of her empty body, everything had slowed to a halt. I had never experienced anything like it before.
My body suddenly went into auto-pilot mode. My numb legs began to powerfully push through the water as I began to pull her towards the kayak. I used the adrenaline to lift the woman over kayak with a single explosive push. I circled around and hoisted myself into the seat whilst being careful not to overturn it due to the excess weight. My hands clenched onto the paddle and with full-force, I stabbed it into the face of the water as quick as a lightning bolt. I used every ounce of strength to bring the kayak in to the beach.
It didn’t take long for everything to sink in. My wet feet dug into the dry sand. It felt as though my heartbeat could have been heard miles away. Flashbacks were engulfing my thoughts, embedding the raw images into my mind. With a deep feeling of hopelessness in my efforts, my eyes began to bleed with tears. My throat was strained from all the yelling for help. My weak body was slumped over because I lacked energy and focus, but not emotion. No, I had plenty of emotion.
My feelings exploded as I embraced my sister, clinging onto her for stability. We both held onto each other tight. My mind was exhausted, but my heart ached because of the uncertainty of the situation. Tears followed the same course as they fell from my eyes. Suddenly, I couldn’t feel my heart pounding against my chest, nor did I feel my trembling legs. Instead I felt the heavy tears of my sister fall upon my shoulder. That’s when my mind began to focus. Focus on the image of the floating body on the warm sea water.
Had I really just pulled in a corpse in from the local beach? Questions filled my mind. Did she die in pain? Of course she would have, stupid - no one drowns peacefully. Was she murdered? I began to feel sick in the gut. I should have seen her earlier. I could have brought her in faster. Dreaming wasn’t possible, the weight of my sister’s tears were very real. We remained there in that position clenching onto each other tightly. I tried focusing my eyes on the sand in-front of me to block out the vision of the still body lying there with several men shouting as they desperately attempted CPR. The enthusiasm of the procedure began to tire. Suddenly, the echo of a familiar noise flooded the beach. The sound usually brought a sense of hope and control, but not today. The ambulance took forever to get here. I was naive to have believed there was hope from the beginning. I took back my weak arms that were around my sister. I then turned my body around to see the ambulance doors close shut by medical officers who then continued to the front of the van. I watched on as the ambulance drove up and over the sandbanks.
I looked back to the ocean. My eyes were strained from the tears and the sunset’s glare. My heart felt heavy, my mind was filled with endless emotional turmoil. Never could I have imagined that a simple trip to the beach would have turned out to be such a traumatic event.Words could explain what I saw, but I would never be able to explain what I felt. The realisation of mortality had never been so cruel.
Later that evening, I sat in my bedroom by myself reflecting on the whole experience. I began to visualize her weeping grandchildren who discovered their loved one gone. I knew what they were about to feel. In the background I heard the phone starting to ring as it echoed down the hallway. I then heard my mum’s voice as she picked up the phone. It was the police. They called from the hospital to inform us that the lady I found was not dead after all! It changed everything. A wave of relief engulfed me. I was overwhelmed with a deep sense of gratitude. Now for a very different reason, I will never forget my salt water tears.
© Copyright 2016 Nathan Hawke. All rights reserved.
Short Story / Memoir
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