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Outdoor writing winner: Rapid Recovery

Henry Gregson (Courtesy Photo / The Spokesman-Review)
Henry Gregson (Courtesy Photo / The Spokesman-Review)

People say that life flashes before your eyes before you die. Those people are liars. All I could think about was the pain I was in, or that one gulp of air would prolong my death. Whitewater was pouring over my head and into my mouth. Some was swallowed, and some was thrown up again and again, as I continued to spit when I got the chance. My life was not supposed to end violently like this.

My dad wanted to bond. I don’t know why. We were never close, always arguing over some stupid little thing. When my mom died, the arguing stopped. Actually, everything stopped. Deep conversations, interesting stories, nice dinners together. That all ended. This outing was a chance for us to bond. I had been previously rafting with friends, and never really had to do or focus on anything, but now I was by myself in a kayak. Well, now I was actually out of my kayak and stuck between two rocks. I don’t understand why he wanted to do this.

When we arrived at the put-in, I organized everything together. There was a young blonde there, smiling and waving at us. Screw that blonde. This whole trip was an excuse, a justification of my dad’s actions. Screw him. My pessimism increased when I saw them hug, and him taking her hand and leading her over to me.

“Hi, I’m Michelle!” she said with a white smile. Piss off, Michelle. I smiled, said nothing, and then walked over to my kayak. I could hear them whispering as I gradually turned my back on them. The river was taunting me with its beauty, gesturing with its stunning rapids. I couldn’t look at them without being disgusted. I wish my mom was here. My dad wouldn’t be with this fake girl. That’s all she was. A girl. A young one at that.

After putting in the kayaks we went through some rapids, went over flat parts, and ate lunch on land. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t smile. I didn’t frown. I didn’t do anything. I did my best to not think. We camped that night. I slept. I ate with them. I didn’t smile. They laughed, sang some, and had a one-sided conversation with me. They were happy.

My parents were happy. We had dinner together. We trusted each other with everything. We loved. I was with my mom when it happened. Of course it was a car accident, just like all the clichéd tragic accidents. We were arguing. Arguing about a stupid party that I wanted to get smashed at. My mom didn’t know this. She had already made some plans for us or something. The argument was getting heated, and the second my mom turned her head toward me … that was when she died. When she looked at me. The other driver died a couple days later in the hospital. Depression is a funny thing. Remorse for the man had been blown away the second he hit our car. He had a family, but I didn’t care. I had hoped that they were suffering even more than I was.

My dad couldn’t say anything in front of me. He had glazed eyes and a stiff body ever since that accident.

Maybe I was jealous of him and his happiness with this new girl. Maybe I was mad because he smiled more with her than he did with me. Maybe I was just mad in general.

I’m not mad now. I’m drowning. I would laugh at that, but I can’t. I’m drowning.

More water, less air. More chaos, less hope. I knew the outcome of this situation. My legs would not magically become unstuck between these two rocks. How stupid of me.

On the second day of kayaking I had had enough peace. I was through listening to my father and that stupid girl gammar on about how wonderful life is, while that prick had been living like a zombie for the past couple of years. A new rapid. I saw the drop off from the rock. I saw the hole that my kayak might have a chance of falling into. I saw the danger. I didn’t care.

Now, here I am. Dying. My kayak is over my head as I do my best to yell. This will be the last thing I ever look at. Northwest River Supply highlighted in orange. Those are the last words I will read, and they don’t mean anything to me. There is no deeper meaning to my death. There is just … well, death.

Finally, this kayak is being moved from above my head. Somebody has gotten their stuff together and thought, “My God, we need to get that boy out from under there!” I felt no thankfulness, nor appreciation. Just impatience. A strong hand is gripping me now, pulling me slowly from the two rocks.

My God did that hurt. My ankle bent in every way possible, obviously broken, to squirm out of the impending rocks. Twisting from right to left and back and forth in every degree possible.

 Safety. Whatever that means. The girl had saved me. After being pulled from the water, the feeling of gratitude set in. And as we made it to land, transported to a hospital and finally tended to. I could see it. I could see the happiness initiating in my mind. The sense of wholesomeness. The sense that I had felt with my mom.