One day on vacation we go on a snorkeling boat tour, Karl and me and the two children, plus ten or so other tourists from all around the island. The sound is choppy and the weather looks mean and stormy. We aren’t sure until the last minute if the boat will actually sail. Everyone mills around at the jetty waiting and conjecturing, but the Captain finally announces that it will be fine, so we get on board with our equipment. In fifteen minutes we arrive at the destination, out of sight of any land, surrounded by water and the endless curve of horizon. You wonder how the Captain can find this spot, with no landmarks that our eyes recognize.
We gear up, tugging fins onto our feet, shrugging into bright yellow life vests, the kind you blow up if you get into trouble, and adjust our masks and snorkels. Aaron and Jason are deft and expert, spitting on the lenses of the masks to prevent them clouding up, and slipping into the water. But because of the chop, the waves are much larger than we have ever experienced, and after a carefree time exploring farther and farther from the boat, with a jolt I realize I can’t see Aaron. The four of us always stick together when snorkeling but somehow today we become separated.
I churn water and shout his name. I can’t see anything in the distance because waves get in the way and nobody can hear me yell over the sound of wind and water, I can hardly even hear myself. I grab Karl and Jason and tell them to help me find Aaron. They swim back toward the boat and Jason climbs aboard, jumps onto the top of the cabin, and runs in circles on the cabin roof looking into the water. My husband and I swim around the boat, but all we can see are anonymous heads bobbing in the chop. Then Aaron appears in front of me, dog paddling a few feet from the prow, unaware that we are frantic and terrified or that he has been missing. He thinks he is just snorkeling like usual.
Before that day, I swam fearlessly deep in the ocean, way out beyond reefs, the children diving down willy-nilly to snatch something interesting off the ocean floor or work their way around a forest of coral, all of us enveloped in a bubble of adventure. But afterward, my courage is gone and I keep thinking, and think until this very day, that it could have been true, Aaron could have drowned, and I remember the feeling I had as we searched the waves, my luck has run out, all the bad things that have somehow passed me by until then, the accidents barely avoided, the hairsbreadth escapes from disaster. I thought, the odds have caught up with me finally.