It seems to me you have never moved from this garden.
I need to write about horrible things
Hello, dearest Olivia. It’s Steven of the Glaveys, by the way. This is my crappy tumblr that I made at the end of my high school tenure.
But that’s unimportant.
I read this and, well, my first reaction was, “Jesus Christ, I’m so sorry. That’s horrifying and no breathing creature should have to witness that.” But, then I realized that you weren’t really looking for comforting, at least not comforting of that particular species. So, I thought I’d take a different approach.
When I was younger (Fourteen, maybe? It doesn’t matter.), I went on a scuba diving trip with my parents on the eastern coast of Florida. It was run out of some joe’s fly-by-night dive shop. They had a boat that you could charter along with twenty or so other people. It was some yellow afternoon in that intractably humid place, moored at the dock on the bay. I remember the boat was so cramped, which should have been an early sign that the whole affair was a poor idea. As the boat made its way into the open water, everyone on board was assembling their gear — a operation that is both tedious and nerve wracking. There was a woman three stations down from me. I remembered that I heard a loud pop and a woosh of air. Everyone turned and expressed that minor amount of concern that brief surprise demands. I remember that one of the diving instructors went over to lend her a hand and see what went wrong. It was some small malfunction. Interest quickly faded.
We arrived at wherever it was we were going to dive. I set about the awful task of pulling on my wetsuit. Within the experience of scuba diving, there is only one good part: the actual diving. Everything else (the wet suit, the waddling tyranny of flippers, inching towards the water under the burden of the tank and the weight belt and then, worse, hauling yourself back out of the water under those same conditions) is shit.
Anyway, by the time I’d pulled all my gear on and began hobbling towards the water, most everyone on board had gone out into the water except for my father and I. We stopped when we heard the screaming. My father, the only doctor on board, cast off his gear when, a few seconds later, a man emerged towing a body. I saw her face. It was the woman whose gear had failed earlier. Of course it was her, I thought. And that was most of the thinking I was able to do. Suddenly all that weight I had been carrying felt simultaneously alleviated and crushing. I fell back into a seat. My father was doing things, helping her onto the boat, I expect. I didn’t really look. I didn’t know how. There was yelling. It’s all wordless gesture to me now, pantomime theatre. You have to understand, my memory of this is so impoverished. I have a few second reel of it left — that’s all. By the time I was really conscious of what was going on, everyone was back on board, staring at the ghastly spectacle. My mother was making faint attempts to comfort me. I don’t know if I needed them. I appreciated her effort, but I think she was as appalled as I was. I remember my father performing CPR on her lifeless body. I remember being lead up onto the upper deck with the others when it was decided that it would be better for everyone to not stand around and gawk helplessly. I remember the woman’s son was up there. I remember he had burns over all of his back and most of his chest. I remember that it seemed hideously unfair in that dull and flat way that the tragedies of strangers always do.
After that, I’ve only got a few images. I remember my father giving a police report, I remember when I found out that what had felt like a few minutes riding back to land was actually forty minutes (the amount of time my father spent doing CPR on what was essentially a corpse), I remember when I found out that her inflatable life jacket had ruptured on the boat when the sound went off, when I questioned why she hadn’t thought to just drop her gear and instead allowed the weight to pull her down and keep her there, when I first contemplated her mortal panic on the descent, and when I found out that she had been sitting on the ocean floor, only 25 feet down, for close to seven minutes before she was found.
I remember the first thing I thought when I saw the commotion down in the water off the back of the boat as I was waddling towards it — before I knew what had really happened. I remember that I was gratified to not have to dive. I hadn’t wanted to be there, to go diving with my father, and when I fell back into my seat, my overwhelming feeling was one of relief.
It’s strange and it’s hard and it doesn’t make sense, but it goes on anyway. It’s no one’s fault and it’s everyone’s fault but it doesn’t go away. But it’s okay. Sometimes it’s not okay, and that’s tough, but it always gets to be okay again. And even when it isn’t okay, when it’s bad — that’s just as valuable as the other feeling.
You’re great, Olivia. I’m happy to know you. What you shared was really beautiful. I don’t know if this has been especially comforting, but that wasn’t my chief intention. I just wanted to say that you’re okay and I’m okay and we’re all going to variously be okay by many stops and starts.