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The Voice from the Deep: Finding Love & Life

Photo credit: Carol Eliassen

It was a sunny day as usual in Pismo Beach, California, when I decided to go swimming after walking the long white sandy beach. The waves were coming in slowly, along with a light breeze. I had picked a perfect day to hang out at the beach, take in the sights and fresh saltwater ocean air.

While walking along the shoreline, I literally stumbled upon Emma. She was a local college student from San Francisco and was just on a day trip to the beach. She had driven down with friends, but they had insisted on shopping, and all she wanted to do was enjoy being lazy on the beach as she worked on her tan.

I had just dined at a local bar and grill across the street that had a great view of the water. The shrimp, cod, and crab were the best I had ever eaten, but the drinks made me a little wobbly while trying to navigate the deep white sand. When I stumbled upon Emma, which I did, we hit it off after I kept apologizing profusely.

I wasn’t known for college life. I was a helicopter mechanic in the aviation field, so we seemed to have such different lives. She was majoring in interior design, and I wanted to live a fun life after working 60 hours a week or more. I had no ambition, no goals, living paycheck to paycheck. Maybe that was my goal in life?

She didn’t seem judgmental, and she had a charm to her that was quite perky and cute. I thought that just because we are different doesn’t mean we couldn’t have a good time today. She was currently alone, and so was I. There weren’t many people on shore since it was still early in the day, so we hung out and got to know each other.

I tried to convince her to go swimming, but she confessed that she didn’t know how to swim. She was born and raised in San Francisco but never had a desire to learn, and her parents never sent her to swim classes. I told her I could be her instructor if we kept in touch. I could only hope for that. She never actually took me up on the offer but I could tell she was intrigued.

I hung out with her until her friends showed up, and we exchanged phone numbers and said our goodbyes. I was pretty sure I would never hear from her again. We were from two different worlds and had two different goals (or lack of goals) that didn’t match in life. It was nice to make a friend, even only for a day!

I finally got up the courage to wade in, and as the seawater splash up against my leg, I proceeded to dive into a wave that came towards me. I managed to swim out into the ocean water a reasonable distance from shore and then dove down again into the murky water.

This time it was different. When I went under, I thought I would come right back up; I immediately realized I was in trouble. I didn’t know which way was up because I had flipped around as I went below the surface. I kept telling myself, “Eli, you got this, don’t panic!” Not that I ever listened to myself, because I started to panic, then I began to pray.

A voice, not my own, more precise than the voice in my head, told me to swirl around while pushing myself to what I thought maybe down to the bottom of the ocean and then to push myself up with force. I did just that and managed to come out of the water. What was only a few minutes, while holding my breath, seemed like an eternity; I escaped certain death. If I had not listened to this voice and did just as instructed, I was sure to have died that day.

Well, much to my chagrin, today wasn’t over yet because I was still a pretty good distance from shore. I must have also been in a rip current because I could see the shoreline passing by at a fast pace as I moved further down the beach, not of my own accord. I knew not to panic but couldn’t help it when I spotted a dogfish shark. I could tell it was that type of shark by the two smooth dorsal fins gliding through the water directly in my current path. It wasn’t moving toward me, but I seemed to be getting closer to it. I started swimming as fast as possible with the rip current but at an angle toward the shore and just managed to break free. I quickly made my way to the beach. I threw myself on the soft sand and was thankful to be alive!

As I turned over and stared up into the sun, Emma stood and smiled down at me. Maybe there is a God? I certainly think so.

This was first published on vocal. media as a writing challenge July 2021.


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