That Time When I Almost Drowned

Bart: It was a bright, hot day in the Outer Banks. I walked barefoot, even though it burned the soles of my feet. It did not matter, as I had already met Jose upon waking up at 8:30am. Mr. Cuervo and I got nice and riled up, real early on this day. The hot day became a muggy night.  After several hours and several more  tequila shots, I found myself with a few others on our way to the hot tub. In the middle of a 90-something degree day. Among my companions was Eli.

Eli: I’d been packing the car for hours and the work was finally done. After a week of non-stop drinking, I was looking forward to clearing my head, and my blood stream. In less than 12 hours, I would have to round up a van-full of my belligerent housemates and begin the journey home. Everyone else would still be drunk for our sunrise departure but that wasn’t an option for yours truly: the designated driver. Nothing would feel better than a hot tub soak on a hot evening to help the detox process.

One thing most people don’t know about me is that I really like hot tubs. Perhaps people do know this about me. It’s no matter.  At any opportunity that presents itself, I try to make an appearance in a hot tub. This was one of those times. However, it was the middle of summer, and for some reason most people didn’t want to stick around for too long in the 102 degree hot tub. As everyone called defeat after 15 minutes, I waved to Eli and told him I was going to stick around a bit longer on my own. I make good decisions, you see. From my perspective, these things always seem to be the right thing. Don’t listen to what others say, I wasn’t jerking it.

I felt refreshed. All I needed was a good night’s sleep and I’d be ready to go. The others retreated from the hot tub to stumble drunkenly about the beach and scream boodynonsense. After all, you can’t end beach week without some public intoxication and disorderly conduct. I was perfectly content to sit on the couch and turn on the greatest movie of all time: Steel.

The movie features Shaq as a super hero. Of course the climax involves him shooting a free throw with a grenade. It had to happen.

Eli had moved to the house and I was still in the hot tub, loving life splashing around in a drunken haze. I’d been thinking about it for a while now, but I was sure that I was ready for the challenge.  I knew that I could do it, if I could just muster the strength…

I was feeling relaxed, satisfied. Things were peaceful, quiet… too quiet… It had been about a half an hour and I hadn’t heard so much as a peep from the hot tub downstairs. I had a sense of foreboding.

Once the nervous feeling hit me, I knew it was time to move. I jumped up and headed to the stairs.  I was sure he was fine but he’d had quite a bit to drink. I made it down the stairs, rushing. I turned the corner and there he was: face down and floating.

Picture Bart looking a lot like this, only shorter and pumped full of tequila instead of animal tranquilizer.

At this point, my life started flashing before my eyes. I saw moments of our friendship: times we had laughed, times we had fought.  I’d known him for more than half my life, and he was gone. I’d have to tell everyone. I’d have to tell his parents! I’d have to explain how I let this happen to their son. He’d had such a bright future, he was supposed to go to college, meet some girl, get married, have kids. I was supposed to be the sober one, the responsible one. This was my fault. Was I liable? His life was over but was mine too?

I ran – I reached out – desperate to pull him from the tub. I knew CPR so maybe there was a chance I could help him, save him. I grabbed him and pulled his head from the water…

“What the fuck, MAN. I was at 56 seconds.” Eli looked at me in disbelief. “I bet myself I couldn’t get to a minute, and I was just at 56 seconds.”

“I thought you fucking died!” I was furious but also relieved… and exhausted. I stumbled away and fell into bed, into a deep sleep. I was still in shock, but glad that my friend was safe.

And later that night there was a tropical storm and I swam in 10 foot waves, nearly drowning.

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