The Summer of Waves: A Rescue

Posted July 15th, 2012 by June O'Hara and filed in Family Anecdotes

It’s an unusual summer at the Jersey shore. The waves are mighty, the rip tides treacherous. Lifeguards have been dragging swimmers out of the water left and right. My sister Laura and I can’t remember the water ever being so rough. Both underemployed, this summer we’re spending much time at the beach, watching rescues unfold by the dozen. Bearing scrupulous witness, I’ve narrated every one.

“Check it out!” I whisper, elbowing Laura in the ribs. “Over there, at two o’clock.” I point surreptitiously. “See that kid sputtering? He just lost his balance. I think the guards are going in.” Then, moments later: “Did you see that? Good gravy, that poor fellow really got dumped!” Then, on the heels of this: “Hey, the guards are taking the rowboat out! Someone must have drifted far. Can you see who it is?”

In the beginning, Laura shared my  enthrallment. But now she’s lost interest. Worse, she’s engrossed in a novel.

At times, I must entertain myself.

One afternoon, I decide to take a walk down the beach.

Having hiked a good distance, I feel entitled to a dip. Laura, napping back at our towels, is big into the buddy system; she will not approve. But the sun is hot, insistent. Sweat keeps pooling in my belly button, and then trickles down to my crotch. The water is cool on my ankles; the surf beckons. And (I look, just to be sure) the lifeguard stand is right behind me.

Sorry, Sis. I’m going in.

So. I’m ducking under some waves, riding the crests of others. When there’s a lull, I leap and dive, dolphin-like, throwing my butt up in the air. My legs follow suit. As the tide’s rhythm becomes my own, all the accumulated pleasures denied me in daily life course suddenly through my veins. It’s like I’m on Prozac, times one-hundred. Without the sexual side effects. Except. . .

I wish the goddamn whistling would stop.

Well, I guess it can’t be helped. Some poor schmuck is in trouble out here. I’m not unsympathetic, but mentally, I shake my head. It never fails to surprise me, how many people underestimate the power of the ocean. I just don’t get. . .

The whistling grows more urgent. And, to my ear, more piercing.

Both lifeguards have risen to their feet. One is peering through a pair of binoculars; the other is gesturing for the floundering swimmer to move in closer to the shore.

I wish I could get a glimpse of the struggling guy. If I can help, great; but if not, at least I can hover where the action is. I want to look around, but can’t afford to take my attention from the waves, lest I be knocked silly and tossed mercilessly about, ingesting mouthfuls of salt water, seaweed and sand. This, while trying to keep my bathing suit on.

But I can’t shake my curiosity.

I’m the one who needs fucking binoculars.

And that goddamned whistle. . .

Again, I look to the shore. I know it’s not possible — I’m a strong swimmer! I’m great in the surf! — but comprehension intrudes.

The lifeguards are whistling at me.

I begin swimming toward the shore. Casually, at first (“I’ve got this”), then with increased vigor. I make no progress. I put more power into my kicks. Still, I remain in the same spot. If anything, the lifeguards appear smaller, farther away.

The tide is probably pulling me out.

Realizing this, I’m both nervous and resigned. I’ve watched enough summer news segments to know: You should go with the current until it releases you. It almost always does. They key is not to panic.

This is my plan. And I’m sticking to it. But then. . .

Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God.

The lifeguards are jumping off their stand, grabbing rescue gear, and racing toward the water.

They’re running directly toward me.

FUCK.

FUCK.

FUCK.

This cannot, must not, happen. Furiously, with all the strength I have, I wave them back. ”No!” I yell. “I’m fine! Go back!” But the lifeguards are having none of it.

Does a woman not have the right to refuse rescue? To die peacefully among the waves, without the intrusive, voyeuristic stares of others?

No, it appears. A woman in need of rescue is denied this basic right.

Fuck.

 

18 Comments
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18 Responses to “The Summer of Waves: A Rescue”

  1. Kathy says:

    I don’t know how one can write both a hilarious and terrifying piece at the same time, but you’ve done it. Huzzah! So, I’m guessing Maureen really didn’t approve of you going in alone then after that?

  2. BenEllard says:

    I’m with Kathy. Well done. FYI: an unwanted rescue also kicked off a recent episode of “Louie.”

    • June O'Hara says:

      Thanks, Ben!

      I don’t know “Louie,” so I can’t be accused of story stealing. I just know that, in my case, I’d prefer to have drowned than be just one more spectacle on the beach.

  3. June O'Hara says:

    Thanks, Kathy! It was a while before I admitted the episode to my sister. And she was not happy to hear of it.

    So good to see you around!

  4. Lynne Favreau says:

    And yet another reason I DO NOT go to the beach.

    Both my daughters and the oldest ones boyfriend went to the beach. After two and half-hours he began to feel unwell, and had her call the lifeguard over, who called the EMT’s, who whisked him off to the hospital. Three hours at the beach, three liters of IV fluids, four hour in the ER.

  5. June O'Hara says:

    Lynne, I’m glad everything turned out okay!

  6. Babs says:

    I knew there was a reason why I’m scared of water.

    I used to float on an air bed in the sea when I was a kid and I couldn’t even swim. I grew to be scared ;)

  7. June O'Hara says:

    You always make me smile, Babs.

    I love floating on a raft in the ocean more than just about anything. But not a boogie board. I find them an encumbrance and wipe out within minutes. Shocker, I know.

  8. OMG I laughed out loud! So glad you were ok! I can totally relate to the fear of embarrassment being strong than the fear of drowning!!! I too go to the Jersey shore, I know the riptides can suck you right out. At least your adventure provided great blog material!!

  9. June O'Hara says:

    I’m glad you laughed, Lisa! Better dead than embarrassed, right? Makes sense to me!

  10. Lauren says:

    Karma’s a bitch! LOL! It’s amazing how you can write so eloquently, while being so damn funny.

  11. June O'Hara says:

    Thanks so much, Lauren. Coming from someone with such an original and clever sense of humor, that means a lot. And thanks for the tweet!

  12. If God had wanted us to go in the ocean, he’d have given us fins. Plus, sharks don’t swim in my pool and I think I should extend their home the same courtesy. Holy crap on a crutch woman! But way to make a near-tragedy funny!

    I’ll bet your sister still hasn’t let you hear the end of it.

  13. June O'Hara says:

    But Jayne, I so love, love, love the ocean!

    Live it down??? Ha.

  14. J. Bear Savo says:

    I had to re-read this piece, because I realized that after I read the bit about the sweat trickling down into your crotch, I was seeing the rest of the words in this post, but not absorbing them.

  15. June O'Hara says:

    You’re the best, J. Bear. I’m always so, so glad for your comments.

    Hopefully I used overpriced feminine products to keep me fresh that day.

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