~ Four weeks earlier ~
Sunday, January 24
Eyls Beach is not a friendly place to swim during the late winter months. The air is cold and dry, the tides, directed fiercely by the moon, crash upon various rock formations in the ocean and finally against the shore heavier than throughout the rest of the year. The wind gusts are for more sinister than any other time of the year. I stand at the ocean's edge, the water just missing my toes, starring off into the distance slowly blocking out the rest of the world. Straight ahead of me there is nothing but the horizon, breaking apart the ocean and sky, bleak full of clouds and fog. Above me, a flock of seagulls, screech and swoop past me, bringing me back from my daze. They fly in a continuous loop as if they are waiting for me to surrender at any given moment.
I look over to my left and see Davy digging a small divot into the sand with his right foot, he steadies his surfboard with both of his hand and kicks the sand behind him. The hole slowly grows until it is deep enough for him to place his board in, he does so and then kicks more sand around it to keep it from falling over.
He looks up at me, catches my stare and says, "The water's way too cold to surf today."
I nod at him once and return my gaze to the ocean. But something calls to me, like it's begging me to dip my toes into the icy water and so I do. The water is freezing, sending a violent shock throughout my entire body, paralyzing me for a second. But just as quickly as it sent a shiver up my spine, it returns to my toes and settles there.
"Hey, man I said it's too cold." Davy shouts cupping his hands around his mouth, "Too cold," but I ignore him and walk deeper into the ocean, the water now resting at the top of my ankles. It's still icy, but my feet have become used to it. The shocks are less consuming.
"Suit yourself." Davy resigns. I look back at him and he's sitting in the sand, leaning against his board. He nods his head and shrugs his shoulder, like he's daring me.
And so I walk deeper and deeper into the ocean. The waves hit heavy against my chest pushing me back. I fight against them and continue forward until my entire body, save for my head, is fully submerged.
"It's not that bad!" I yell. I turn around to find Davy standing up now. He dusts the sand of his wetsuit and plucks his board up from the sand. "C'mon don't be a pussy!"
Davy chuckles, then "Whatever. We should really get going." He yells back at me with one hand around his mouth. "Your mom is going to kill us both if we aren't back in time."
I hesitate for a moment, thinking over my choices. I could get out of the ocean and jump back into my truck, drive back home, put on my Sunday best and sit in a pew and be told by a man in gaudy black and white robes that I'm probably going to hell for something I call biology, but he calls a choice. Perhaps, he wouldn't recite me those exact words, but some days he does preach about how I love, is the wrong kind of love. Or I could stay here, in the ocean, frigid as it may be, under a foggy sky and pretend the rest of the world doesn't exist. Even if just for a moment in time.
"I'll be there in a second," I say finally, deciding that even though the latter of the two options sounds more viably pleasant, I'd much rather not be lectured for hours by my parents afterwards. I'll go to church for two hours and be done with it for now, at least until next Sunday.
Davy shrugs his arms and says, "I'm going to put my board in the truck." He starts to run back towards truck, but he stops and turns around. "It's too cold out here—" He begins, but suddenly his face is plastered with shock, he drops his surfboard and takes up running towards me faster than I'd ever seen him run before. "Lookout!" He screams violently and points in my direction. He's still running, but he's picked up his pace and I realize the threat is looming far closer than I imagined.
Somehow, I didn't hear it before, but as I turn my head I finally hear it, the sound of waves barreling harshly towards me. These waves stand much taller than the usual ones that settle this close to shore, this time of day. The waves crash into me violently, painfully and submerge me completely under water before I have time to suck in a sharp breath of air. I thrash underwater, my eyes burning and try to swim upwards towards the sky. I finally reach the surface and suck in a huge breath of icy air. It chills its way down my throat, clawing against the sides but it is a welcome relief to the salt.
Just as I hear a second wave, this time much bigger swooping towards the shore, I see a flash of silver and airy yellow in the corner of my eye. I follow the light to the horizon where it slowly disappears. My eye shifts into focus and before I realize it, the next wave crashes on top of me pushing me down deeper than the last wave. This time the wave isn't as kind. It thrusts against me, much wilder and unnerving than the previous set of waves. My head smashes into a rock, followed by my right arm and I want to scream out in pain, but I can't or else my lungs will fill with water. I try my best and thrash against the current with my left arm as my right arm has become completely numb and utterly useless. I flail my arm against the waves, angry and rude, fighting off the ocean, near to losing my breath. My vision starts to blur out, and in an instant a tiredness that I have never felt before washes over my body. I try to fight it off, but eventually it consumes my entire body and I give into the ocean, letting it toss me against the rocks and push me deeper down into the water. The last thing I hear before I completely lose conscious is Davy, yelling my name over and over again, like a prayer, like worship.
"Noah, lookout!" I yell cupping my hands around my mouth, but he doesn't hear me, and if he does, he doesn't flinch. A wave about a dozen feet taller than him barrels towards him.
"Lookout!" I yell again, I pick up my pace running towards him. Suddenly a wave, crashes into him as he turns around and quickly is pulled under.
I dive into the ocean and the iciness tries to take over my body like it did his, but I block it out. I force my mind to wander elsewhere. I call out his name repeatedly as I swim further into ocean, but he doesn't reply. I suck in a huge breath of icy February air and dive under once again. This time I go deeper, as deep as I can before my oxygen runs out and before everything turns to black, but still nothing, no Noah. I resurface, searching for his head or even just a fidgeting limb, but I don't see anything other than the waves slamming hard against the rocks, the same place he went under. I dunk my head into the ocean again, fighting the waves hopelessly and swim further out. Part of me knows that couldn't possibly last that long underwater without coming to the surface for air at least once. I resurface again and steady myself on the rock that Noah crashed into. I catch my breath before yelling out for him again, and still there is no reply. I rub my hands together trying to muster up some warmth and steady my eyes on the horizon. The waves have calmed, and the ocean merely ripples weak tides that crash against the shore. I navigate around the rocks, still holding on to them carefully, keeping myself steady so I don't fall and meet the same horrible fate that Noah has. I'm ready to dive back in and search for him again when something catches my attention in the corner of my eye. I crane my head around completely, and there in the wet, sticky sand is his body on the shore, lifeless and pale.