Sept. 29th, 2018
10 days before Lucas’ 28th birthday
Exactly 5 years and 3 months since his death
The fall air is slightly crisp, but the morning sun is warm shining through the thin, patchy cloud cover.
The brightness periodically changes as the faint breeze moves the clouds.
I hear cars passing along the highway below and excited laughter and shouts from the marina across the highway.
When the sun is bright my right side is warm and my right eye squints.
Directly ahead of me is the vast lake. On a map you can objectively surmise that it is large, but you can’t really appreciate it until it rests before you.
In my whole view I only see one boat. Motorized, not a sailboat. I wonder if they are aware of the danger. If so, how do they prevent tragedy? And if not, how nice it must be to live in ignorant bliss, unafraid of the silent killer just feet, or inches, away from them.
Another boat comes into my view – a sailboat.
I wonder how boaters will respond to the stickers that will soon (hopefully) be mandated on every boat and marina in Utah. Will they be grateful, or scoff at yet another regulation. I don’t care how they react. Because they will be safer.
I imagine how it felt that day. Warm. No. Hot. Over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Most people concerned about heat stroke. That will be the hypothesis. I imagine laughter and splashes and alcohol and friends.
Another, smaller speedboat motors out of the marina.
Another appears in my right view. I see more people walking in the marina. This must be the time of day people get started.
I smell the dry, dead grass, dirt, and shrubbery around me. Fall has such a unique smell. It feels like, anticipation. Like something is coming. Summer is different. Summer smells and feels like the moment. Right then and there. You can’t anticipate in summer. You can’t know that the moment is going to invert on itself; that everything will have changed by the end of it.
I look out at the water – rippled, not glassy, in many directions. A dull, pale blue. I pick out the area that Felipe had pointed to. “That’s where it happened,” he said. He got confused. Sleepy. Weak. A textbook presentation, I now know. But textbooks don’t prepare you for the news.
I notice the bench. A dark onyx color, with a cracked design. It’s gotten some bird poop on it since it was installed this summer. But it’s surprisingly comfortable. Curved seat and backrest – conforming to the body’s natural curvature. A perfect place to chill out and relax. He loved to chill out and relax. The vantage point is high, a beautiful outlook.
A girl shouts out from the marina. I hope she’s careful.
I look back to the lake and imagine that boat speeding back to the marina, his friends’ faces frantic and panicked. They are too far out; they need to go faster. So they jump. One after another they jump from the boat so that it can go faster. A couple people stay behind to continue CPR. He has stopped breathing at this point.
The sun has moved behind the clouds. It’s a little dimmer now.
I look behind me, the mountainous hills covered in a shade of yellow and red that only nature can produce. I unconsciously move my feet and notice the dirt under the bench. The dirt and rocks are still loose. It took awhile to raise enough money to get it. His friends worked so hard – the annual golf tournament, the lobbying. I want to do more to help. But how? It’s easier not to, anyway.
They tried for an hour apparently, but it was no use. It binds too strongly. Humans have not evolved to resist it.
What is it like to be a first responder, or any healthcare professional, to enter people’s lives on the dark, inverted side of the moment? How do you communicate with them, empathize, when they are still trying to catch up with the moment?
A family is playing down on the shore. No boat. They’ll be OK. Just watch the little ones.
That night I was home alone, on a break from summer camp. I hadn’t seen my brother since before leaving for my study abroad, and had only been back a week or two. I can’t actually remember the last time I saw him. We saw so little of each other then. It didn’t even feel weird for him to be gone, like I would see him next at his birthday in a couple months. But now five birthdays and Christmases and Thanksgivings have gone by. I actually see him more often now – just in my dreams. Clear as day. I worry that I’ll forget what he looked and sounded and smelled like. But my dreams bring him back – perfectly preserved.
I’m afraid of being alone at home at night now. I can’t help but imagine the worst case scenario when my roommate isn’t home when I expect her. I hope I don’t here a knock at the door. 19 is so young. Yet just old enough to be told the truth alone. I don’t envy the role of the police in these situations. They have the hardest job. He was kind. He agreed to tell my mom on the phone when I couldn’t.
I can see why he liked this place. It’s quite magical. I thought I would never come here, but the bench is here – Sit, Relax, Remember. It’s hard, but good, to remember.
I probably won’t go into emergency medicine, but I can still be there for people during their inverted moments. Not all can be turned back around, but some can. And I’ll be there for them during both. To be kind and to tell the rest of the family the truth when it’s just too hard.