At first, I didn’t realize he was drowning.
He was captain of the ship when he lost himself in stormy seas and decided the best course of action was to sink it. Many of us, the children too, went down with him.
In the middle of that dark ocean, I would see him periodically, bobbing to the surface. His eyes were different, and he was not concerned with the storm that swirled around him. Those of us who had been on his ship were carried into the tempest alongside him, and we bobbed and gasped with him. He had a smile on his face that did not reach his eyes as he stared off into the distance.
I’m a good swimmer, and with the children under one arm, I managed twice to get close enough to him to grab his hand and tug.
“Come on!” I pleaded, “Let’s go! I can swim for all of us!”
He jerked away from me both times. The second time, he stared at me with unrecognizable eyes, and screamed, “LEAVE. ME. ALONE!”
After that, I was sucked under the surface for a long time. Lungs crushed. I panicked, kicking and fighting for air. As I forced myself to calm down, I managed to hold the children’s heads above water and watched their small legs treading to my left and right. I was determined to keep them afloat, and I did. I’m a good swimmer.
Those on the surface who tried to convince him not to move deeper into the storm eventually got tired of calling out to him, and they dove down to pull me up. (Even good swimmers need help sometimes.) I emerged from that lonely place, coughing and sputtering, and I was pulled into the lifeboat. The children were there. The others were there. He was not.
We started after him, all rowing furiously and calling loudly, life jacket in hand, ready to toss it and pull him up. He ignored our shouts and warnings. The storm got worse. We had to turn around and save ourselves.
“Wait!” I cried, “We can’t just leave him out here!”
But the waves were getting higher and putting our boat in danger. And he was not listening to anything but whatever noise in his head that kept him so intent on his own demise, eyes focused on whatever sparkly thing he thought he saw in the distance.
Everyone else in the boat had turned away and begun rowing furiously for safety. I stood at the stern for a long time, watching him flail in the dark sea, but he did nothing to come after us. He did not call out. He did not turn our way. He chose to drown.
Right before his head went under, I picked up a paddle.
And with tears streaming down my face, I began to row toward the sun.