THE HORSEHAIR BRUSH SHORT STORY
A Second Chance - A Memoir
A Second Chance
Our mahogany speedboat skipped down the St. John’s river on a sunny afternoon in June. I had not a care in the world. I was a like a sponge soaking up the Florida beauty that surrounded me. Sleek, blue herons flew lazily along the river’s edge in search of a good meal. Turtles piled in a cascading waterfall of shells and legs on sun drenched logs, and alligators posed frozen with heads held toward the sun. Lush, tropical cypress created a dense, green backdrop to this exquisite canvas of nature. I remember thinking I had somehow slipped millions of years back in time to the era of the dinosaurs and lost worlds.
My husband handled the boat while he chatted with his two nieces who were down for a visit. We merged into the main river where boat traffic multiplied rapidly. The feeling of being lost in an uninhabited world quickly vanished with the noise of motors, the noise of laughter drifting across the water, and the noise of teens screaming as they zipped by on jet-skis jumping wakes. The peace and serenity of my private thoughts disappeared with the invasion of civilization.
A huge cigarette boat with twin 454s passed by us making me think of drug runners and the television show Miami Vice. I always hated those things, but before I could even complete my thoughts a huge wake back-flushed our small boat and lifted part of it out of the water. The boat tilted and then fell forward tipping to its starboard side only to hit an oncoming wake which stacked a moderate wall of water in front of us. The boat continued to flip. In that instant my life and thoughts plunged into the realm of slow motion. I wondered if my life was going to pass before my eyes before I died.
I had been sitting up on the back of the front seat when I felt my body lifting and flying over the windshield as the boat started into its slow roll and flip. I felt as though I were in a tunnel, because I was only aware of my own being. I saw nothing of what happened to the others in the boat. None of us was wearing life preservers, but we did have those floating cushions on board. The reddish-brown water made me think of blood in the water. I felt my leg scrape across the top of the windshield ripping my skin like a can being opened with one of those old fashioned up-and-down can openers, but surprisingly I felt no pain. Fleeting thoughts of the motor’s blades slicing into us were shoved aside when my head parted the waters. The water felt like jello closing around my body because of the dream-like sensation of time progressing ever so slowly. Each second was etched in my mind like a fine drawing.
I seemed to go deeper and deeper and wondered if my breath would last. My lungs ached from the desire to inhale and breathe in the thick, fluid water. I wondered if somehow I would sprout gills and be able to swim underwater in perfect peace and harmony with the world that existed there. I wanted to breathe, but something would not let me take that desperate breath. I remember looking around seeing nothing under water, but finally a glimmer of light like a faraway diamond caught my eye. I headed for it, but every second seemed like a minute of torture. A giant hand crushed my lungs with each passing moment. I ached all over. My arms flailed trying to reach the surface. I began to wonder if I was already dead and the glimmer of light was that bright light in heaven inviting me to leave this life to begin another. Finally, I broke the surface and gasped for air.
Apparently, I was in shock as I found out later, because a gentleman was on a party barge when our boat flipped. He saw me break to the surface gasping for air and swung an oar out to me. He told me later the oar was right in front of my face, and my eyes were wide open. I made no move to grab it; I began to slowly slip back underneath the water. I remember feeling the water close over the top of my head almost in a comforting fashion like it was saying, “It’s okay. I’ll take care of you.” I began to sink further and further down. Again my lungs ached, but this time I did not fight. I welcomed in the water; it filled my lungs closing out my oxygen. The water around me turned black as tar, and all I could feel was a sensation of sinking very slowly to the bottom. In my mind’s eye it was only a dream, a pleasant release from the trials of the world. I felt at peace and even happy. That’s all I remember until I awakened in a moving ambulance. I heard voices and felt hands pushing on my chest rhythmically and felt air rushing into my lungs.
Later, the gentleman on the party boat came to visit me at the hospital. When he saw me go under water, he let go of the oar and jumped into the water to save me. He dove two or three times before he was able to grab my floating hair. He pulled me up to the surface. I was unconscious. He thought I was dead. My husband had grabbed a floating ski that escaped from our boat. He was able to grab his two nieces who had their floating cushions, but apparently I was first to hit the water, and they were quite a distance from me. I will always be grateful to the stranger who cared enough to get involved.