The waves were calm and subtle but she was losing her grip nonetheless. It was dark and the water temperature was warmer than the air. That was the only good part of being submerged in the middle of the ocean.
The boat capsized so quickly and seemingly out of nowhere that there wasn’t even a second to prepare. One moment they were making love in the cabin with candlelight and music and the next, they were upside down and sinking. Fast!
Ama, on her sixth hour of bracing on to a large cooler, was starting to hallucinate, though she prayed that this was all just a horrible dream to start with. Three days before she turned down Eli’s invitation for a weekend boat trip. They had only had one date and she didn’t want to move too fast – or look too easy. But he insisted and even sent a little model of his sailboat to her office with a note reading “Please reconsider.” His charm, good looks and incredible talent for kissing won Ama over. It was like a movie, he picked her up in his sports car and drove down the coast to the pier.
The boat was perfect, not too big, not a dingy, and he certainly knew how to handle it. Eli warned her that she would have to work a little and she hid her apprehension behind a brave smile. “The only way you’ll get over your phobias is to immerse yourself in them.” was her mother’s mantra for as long as she could remember. Now, floating, scared and alone, Ama could only laugh, for her fear of water was now more appropriately replaced with a fear of death, which she was sure would be coming at any moment.
She pulled herself up a little, trying to readjust her grip on the cooler that was saving her life. Inside was melted ice which meant fresh water. It was better than gold in her situation, it was life, but when she discovered the bonus to her lifesaving contraption, a wave crashed over and nearly sunk her. She managed to close the cooler but she was unsure if the fresh water was contaminated by the sea. As the waters calmed, she thought about reopening it and testing the water but there was a part of her that didn’t want to know – so she kept putting off the potential disappointment until she was sure that she couldn’t live another moment without a drink.
Sharks had started to circle around her within hours of being plunged into the sea. The only saving grace was that Eli was pulled away from her before he started to bleed out from slicing his hand on the mast in a dire attempt to get it upright. He screamed in pain and all Ama could do was watch in horror as the waves crash upon them as the little light there was faded as the moon lifted higher in the sky.
Ama sang her favorite childhood song for the third straight hour. She stopped watching below – the swishing of shark fins were passed the point of fear and morphed into irritation. Not wanting to give them any more reason to eat her any sooner than needed, she refused to kick her legs, but this had caused them to go numb and useless. “Well, when they start snacking on me, at least I won’t be able to feel it right away.” She laughed to herself in delirium.
The sun started to rise and in the shimmering light, the surface of the water resembled sparking gold powder. Ama smiled at the sight and pretended she was watching this beautiful sight from the beach or on a dock but she suddenly winced in pain when her lips cracked. Quickly pulling her bleeding lip into her mouth, she sucked on it desperately, fearful that even one drop in the water would signal the sharks pacing beneath her that it was ‘go’ time. For the first time in hours, she was unable to control the tears falling from her large almond eyes. Her long dark hair was stuck to her head covering her ears and occasionally falling into her eyes. Gripping the floating cooler was hard because it was such an awkward size. Larger than one you’d picnic with and more appropriately used for tailgating.
Ama laughed when she saw it onboard. I was filled with ice topped by a bottle of champagne and a six-pack of the same IPA beer they had shared on their first date. She liked that he remembered. She liked the way he smiled at her and she liked the way he held her. Now he was gone and she didn’t know if he was alive or not but suspected he wasn’t. How could he be?
The sun was up and the heat was growing. She was so stiff it was hard to move her head around to check out her surroundings, but when one of her downstairs neighbors bumped her hard with its fin, she gasped. Relieved that her lip finally stopped bleeding, she forced herself to focus on opening the cooler again.
She looked around and the still waters made for far better conditions than during her earlier attempt. She moved her grip and slowly opened the blue cooler but there was no way to know if the water was now salt infused. The water level looked about the same, or maybe she was just hoping it was. She laughed when she realized there was still a beer floating in there. She reached for it and as she pulled it from the melted ice water, she caught the drippings in her mouth and gasped in relief that it was still fresh water.
Then her grip slipped and overturned the cooler. “NO!” she screamed, but her horse voice hardly lets out a sound. She struggled to shut it, but by then, it was half full of seawater. She grabbed hold of the cooler and held it tight. She panted in exhaustion and watched as the beer bottle that also slipped from her hand, bobbed up and down just out of arm’s length. Ama started to laugh, mostly because no tears remained.
Determined to drink one last beer before she died, she tried to kick her stiff numb legs to reach it. She kicked again. And again. Just as she grabbed hold of the bottle and plucked it from the sea, she looked up and couldn’t believe her eyes… “I really must be dreaming,” she whispered to herself before everything when white.