But sea monsters and barracudas were the least of my worries that day.
I didn’t know what really lay beneath the silken folds of salt water, but I would soon discover it.
I remember the coast guard sped up beside us, the double motor on their boat spraying me with frigid mist.
HEAD BACK IN MR. WALLACE.
My father, never one to yield to authority, calmly told them to mind their own business. He and his son had fish to catch.
I watched the orange and white people scan our shoddy boat dubiously, their faces grim. I didn’t dare question my father aloud, but I stared down one man with a mop of curly red hair. I remember him because of that color; it nearly matched his vest. But the red-headed man either didn’t see or didn’t care about my pleading gaze. He and his partner left in another whip of sea spray and I was alone with my father.
Please let’s go home. I’m frightened.
IT’S JUST A SQUALL. NOTHING I HAVEN’T BEEN THROUGH BEFORE. QUIT BEING SUCH A PANSY ASS.
Maybe if the stubborn old fart had listened that day, he wouldn’t have lost his son.
The storm clouds blotted out the sun and the winds churned the water into a thick froth. I imagined the sea creatures rocking in the waves below, dancing with the boat. Always the dreamer, I couldn’t even focus on the present when I was about to drown to death.
Not much stayed in my brain after that. I know I drowned. I know one smart smack of a wave to the starboard side of our glorified dingy sent me over the edge and into my nightmare.
Had I not been such a frail child, the life vest might have stayed on in the fray while my father held his fishing rod out to me, desperately yelling my name. I wish that I could remember what he was calling. I don’t like my new name at all, and I have a feeling the old one fit better.
I know my father’s name, though. It was Jeremy. Jeremy Wallace Jr.
Maybe I was a junior, too. I’ll probably never know, though.
I remember the vest slipping off and my father screaming my name. I even remember him abandoning the boat – his livelihood, his one valuable item in life – and spearing the water with his lithe body, searching for me.
I saw him from down below. His feet, still in those damn fish-smelling rain boots he dumped in the kitchen when he came home, kicking violently, his hands slapping the surface of the water, the muffled sound of my name.
What was it?
It’s just a sound to me now, a deep grumble in the recesses of my waterlogged brain.
He faded like a bad dream as I sunk. I knew how to swim, so I could have at least made it back to the surface. But I didn’t fight. Maybe it was fear or shock, or perhaps the frigid water simply paralyzed my muscles, but I don’t remember moving as I lost sight of my father, Jeremy Wallace Jr.
I remember waiting to drown. Surely, I would run out of oxygen soon. My lungs would burn white fire and my muscles would spasm, forcing me to choke down water, killing me.
But it never happened. I never drowned. At least that’s what Kira says.
She found me, floating down from the sky in a bundle of cloud.
I thought you were my angel, she always says. I used to pray every night for an angel to come for me. And you were it.
We both know now that I’m no angel. I’m only a boy, even more ordinary than anyone here.
You see, far below the surface of the sea where I lost my life, there is another world. And I live there now, neither dead nor alive. Part of me thinks everyone here is dead. I tell Kira all the time that this must be Davy Jones’ locker.
She has no idea what I mean.
I think we’re all dead here in this underwater world. And I think one day, I’ll see my father here with me. He always said he’d die at sea.
ONE DAY I WON’T COME BACK, SON. DON’T BE SCARED, he’d say. IT JUST MEANS I’M HOME.
That never made sense to me, but now I think I know what he meant. Though I suspect I’m dead, though I know I’ll never get back to the surface where I once lived, I know that I too am home. At long last, I am at peace.
And I pray, as Kira does, that my father will join me soon. Perhaps then, I’ll know my own name.