Truth Be ToldBy: Holly Ryan
She’s pounding at the window with all her strength. I want to tell her to kick with her feet, but in her panic, she doesn’t understand my gestures.
I stay with her, trying to free her, until my lungs start to burn. Until I have no choice but to come up for air. I touch the window in one last act of frustration and attempted communication.
She touches the window back, matching my fingers. Our eyes connect, hers full of fear, mine full of anger at my failure. Then I push off, leaving her alone.
When I break the surface, I gasp for air, my lungs instantly filling with the sweet, life-giving force, and then I collapse inside with the realization that she cannot have this.
I take a deep breath to dive again, but then I see it – the wave, rising tall and furious and coming right for me. Coming right for us.
The world pauses. My mind pauses. The car disappears completely under the water as the wave rushes over us, tossing and turning me further and further away from her.
When I open my eyes again, I’m at the water’s edge. Everything is quiet. To me, the water is strangely still. I stand, determined to go back in, when someone behind me grabs both of my arms and holds me where I am.
“No, man,” a man’s voice says. “It’s too dangerous. No.”
It may be too dangerous, but I wouldn’t know. I don’t notice the sudden increase in wind, and the even larger waves that are now visible on the horizon, the ones that are coming straight for us.
I twist in the stranger’s grip, but it only makes him hold on tighter. “Let me go!” I turn in his grasp and lift a clenched fist, aiming straight at his face. I want him to know I mean business, and he’d better let me go if he knows what’s good for him.
It works. He does. He lets me go and holds his hands up…and I take all of two steps toward the shoreline before I collapse to the ground. The last thing I remember is the sensation of soppy wet sand between my fingers. It oozes through that fist that I clench again, this time out of sadness instead of anger. I watch the bright stars twinkling above me, so quiet and peaceful in comparison to everything that’s going on beneath them.
Then I’m back in front of my house, standing with the girl. Her arm is still raised, pointing.
How is she here with me, alive?
“Wave,” she says again, more gently this time. Her voice echoes in the rain.
I wake with a gasp.
My heart pounds against my chest. I shakily breathe in and out, my lungs pumping to catch my breath. There’s a layer of cold sweat around the collar of my loose tee shirt.
This is the worst I’ve felt since the night it happened. I force myself to sit up and click on the light next to my bed, then I rub my face.
What of that was real, and what was a dream?
The light illuminates the room. Finally being out of the darkness helps me return to reality, and I start to breathe normally again.
I throw the covers off and swing my legs over the edge of the bed, resting my elbows on my knees. I’ve never had that dream before. That woman has never before come to me in any form – not in my memories, or my dreams. Until now, they’ve always just been brief flashes of the car or the water. I’ve done a pretty good job not remembering her.
I think the fact that she came to me tonight is because of the girl at the club.
In the bathroom, I splash some cold water on my face. For a long time, that used to make it worse. I couldn’t wash with anything except steaming hot water, because if it was so much as lukewarm, it would bring me back to what it felt like that night to be submerged in the freezing cold ocean with her. But I prefer not to think about that.
I splash my face one more time, then rub my face and hands dry.
It’s obvious from my reflection that I’ve been letting myself go. I’m in need of a good shave, for one. Leaning closer, there are traces of dark circles under my eyes. I’m still fit, I notice as I step back, since my workouts aren’t something I’m ever willing to give up. They’re my therapy, the one thing keeping me sane. I don’t show any sign of the occasional drink I still indulge in, even despite my gradual increase in age.
Speaking of drinking, I didn’t even drink enough to warrant a hangover at the club earlier tonight. I barely drink anymore, actually. I left my second beer unfinished at the table and flat out left because I’d had enough.