It’s funny what you notice when you’re dying. It’s not your breath or your heartbeat, or the ripple of your mind slowly coming undone. It’s what you love. For me, it’s the color of the water. First, it’s green like bottle glass. Then it’s deep, dark blue-black, like a midnight sky.
The water seeps into my ears blocking everything else out. It creeps into my clothes, through the strands of my hair. It invades my nose, my mouth, and slides into my lungs, into my stomach. It envelopes me, claims me as its own. I’m going with it.
And then something jerks me back. In the murky water, I can barely see what it is through my salt-blinded eyes. It’s Dad. He’s got me. He’s tugging on my vest, trying to unhitch the tether and I wonder why. Something breaks free and he pulls me up with him. The vest I’m wearing pops me up to the surface like a cork.
On the surface, my lungs vomit out searing salt water, even as more angry waves bash us against the hull of the sloop. She’s completely upside down. Dad’s pushing my limp arms up on the hull, trying to make me grab a hold of something, anything to keep my head above water.
I never dreamt when we left the shore this is where we’d be just a few hours later. I thought our biggest worry was the fight Dad had with Karla before we left. I don’t think she meant half the things she said to him, but I could tell by the way he stood at the helm of our sloop, his blue-gray eyes as stormy as the horizon, he was still stewing on it as we left the marina behind.
“If you go out there, Adam, don’t bother coming back,” she had said.
“She’ll get over it. She always does,” I said. I pulled my windbreaker on. The cold spray of the ocean was freezing my arms, raising goose bumps on my skin.
“I don’t know, Sam. Seemed pretty serious to me.”
“But we have to train. She has to know how important this race is. If we win, the money…”
“I think she’s reached the limit, Little Fish.”
Dad still called me Little Fish, even though I was sixteen, and it still made me smile. He gave me the name years ago and it looked like it would be mine forever.