Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Last Thing I Heard Her Say

At last, we were happy. We were in Mexico on our first vacation in years – what seemed like years. My wife was pregnant with our first child and the sun was shining. We were swimming off a quiet section of beach near our hotel, buoyant in the warm and salty water. Not a worry in the world. In the distance a parasailer floated serenely above the sea, a dark speck in the bright blue sky.

I swam a little farther out. I wanted to get to where my feet no longer touched the ground.

"Be careful!" my wife shouted playfully.

"I will!"

I floated on my back awhile, watching gulls fly by, spitting out the water when waves broke over my face.

"Where are you?" I heard her say.

I got up, treading water again, and waved at her. She waved back. I turned around. A ship – an oil tanker, maybe – traced the faint horizon. I swam out a little more.

"Don't go too far now!"

"I won't, honey!"

I swam a few more yards and then some more. And though I felt as though I shouldn't, a few more after that. I should turn around right now, I thought. And yet I didn't.

The beach was hundreds of feet away now. I rested for a minute in the isolating quiet of a strange, new space. A border realm. When the waves permitted, I could still see my wife. She faced me from afar. She was so beautiful.

"Come back!" she yelled.

I don't know why, but I swam out a little more.

"Come back, baby! Come back!"

I looked over my shoulder and saw her swimming after me. I continued. I don't know why I did. Honest to God I don't. But I did. Before long I was out of reach of all but her cries. As they grew more urgent, they grew less distinct. I heard please. Please! I think I heard I love you.

The very last thing I heard her say broke my heart so.