538 - Lifeguard


 The green ones sound higher than the brown ones. The rhythmic clink of bottles rouses you only slightly, but enough for you to have this thought.

"What have you done to yourself, dad?" asks your daughter as she pushes her feet through the carpet of unbroken glass like she's trudging through so much crystal snow.

Her hand takes yours, shocking you into a cloudy consciousness -a dark, distilled overcast after a rainy season of whiskey and Busch. Her touch, the first you've felt in months, is electric and suddenly her hand isn't hers it's hers.

You're back in 1987 and the waves roll over your face, slap into your nose and push down your throat. You are drowning and it's all your fault. The world beings to fade to black but before you can surrender to the cold warmth of the shallow abyss a hand grabs you. It's her hand (not hers but hers you remind yourself).

She pulls you up and warm sunshine washes your skin. You feel yourself being drawn against the impossible rip current that brought you out here. Waves still press down  upon you but you're able to steal a breath from the spaces they leave behind. The white sand strip grows broader and a stronger set of hands grabs you as hers (not hers but hers) don't so much let go as fade away.

The rough grit of a billion broken and ground-up seashells scrapes against your back.

"You're gonna be okay," he says, whoever the fuck he is. You don't believe him and you're right, but you suppose he didn't really mean it that way.

"You're gonna be okay, daddy," he says before the horror fill his face and he runs back to the clawing surf. Someone else shouts save her and you wonder why he'd call you daddy. "...but you have to wake up," he calls back before a desperate dive into the savage tide.

The last wave comes- somehow you know even though you've been saved that this is the one that will end you. You find the time to think it odd that the wave has fingers before you're slapped awake.

The face isn't hers, but your daughters, though anyone looking would find a hard time seeing the difference. Not you, though. No problem telling the difference between the face in front of you and the one you see sinking beneath the green waves every time you close your eyes.

Her tears (hers not hers) roll softly down her pale cheeks. She doesn't know how to save you, how to pull you out of the riptide you're drowning in.

You can't bring yourself to tell her that the only one who could have is waiting for you in the black depths you once glimpsed and try every night to drown yourself back into.