Tears in the Pacific (2/5)
Martha must have felt my gaze on her; she turned and gave me tired but kind eyes. She stepped away from Lawrence and came to meet me at the door. I couldn’t look her in the eyes, if I did I would break down. Instead I kept looking over her shoulder at Lawrence. He looked like a half unwrapped Christmas present, his whole left side covered in white bandages. It must have been how pharaohs looked during mummification. Martha placed her left hand on my right shoulder and I could not help but to look at her.
“He is a strong boy James, but he is in rough shape. I have cleaned him up the best I can, now all we can do is wait and allow his body to heal.”
“He shouldn’t have been outside.” The words had been reverberating in my brain for the past hours and it was the only thing I could say.
Martha hugged me; “I know. No one should have been. He is a strong boy, he will heal, just give it time James.”
“He shouldn’t have been outside.” Martha held me and I wept. I wept every tear I had left, each one of them coming straight out of my soul.
When I was empty and my eyes burned Martha tried to walk me to my room but I refused. There was no way I was leaving Lawrence. She found me a comfy chair and I sat there looking at the still perfect right side of my boy. My vision became blurry and I joined him in rest.
I woke up the next morning to an achy back and the sad reality that it all hadn’t been a dream. Lawrence was still in the infirmary bed just how I had left him. I fought my weathered joints and found my way to my feet. I could see his chest rising and falling with each breath, so I dared and ventured out of the room. The moment I entered the hallway I could hear hushed voices talking somewhere near. I followed the murmur to find Martha and Omar talking with concerned looks in their eyes. I walked up to them as they now stood in silence; their eyes followed my every move with great concern.
I walked right up to them, purposely invading their personal space. I stared into Omar’s eyes and into his soul. “He shouldn’t have been out there.”
Omar broke my gaze, his shame filled eyes staring down at his feet. I had known Omar since we got to this island 45 years ago. I was seven at the time and he was a young man. We were two of the original 53 and now two of the 23 left from the crash landing. My mom, dad and me were flying back from Hawaii to our home in California after a family vacation. The plane was full of mostly tired, tanned and sunburned tourist, making their way back to the mainland after a tropical escapade. My dad slept on the aisle seat and my mom kept me busy with toys and videos. I remembered every little detail as if it had happened yesterday.
The plane started to shake, at first it was amusing to me but the terrified eyes of the adults told me that it wasn’t normal. The shaking stopped and the plane started to free fall. I remember the seat belt being the only thing holding me from floating away and the strange sensation in my head and stomach. We fell for what felt like an eternity. As the pilot got the plane under control the weightless feeling turned into gravity trying to squish me into my chair. I felt as if an invisible elephant had been sitting on me. We stopped moving with a jolt and the distinct sound of splashing water. The pretty stewardess guided us out of our seats and towards a large yellow slide. I glided down the fun slide and into an equally bright, yellow inflatable boat. I remember, as we floated away from the plane, that the back half of it was nowhere to be seen. The remaining front half quickly sank into the dark blue pacific leaving behind an effervescent mass of bubbles. The adults tried hard to guide the boat with the paddles but the currents eventually won, they always do. We rode the sea currents for days until we landed in a small island. Another of the bright yellow boats landed on the same island, and three others in the larger island right across from ours.
The adults tried to remain calm but the panic was transparent in their eyes. I can’t remember how long we stayed in the little island but help never came. Provisions quickly ran out, being a kid I never missed my ration, but I could see my mom and dad were barely eating or drinking. There was no water in the island and people quickly started to fall ill, including my mom. It only took 4 days for the fever to take her. She was one of many who we buried in the tiny island before we made the treacherous trek to the slightly larger island. I hung on to the raft watching all the adults paddle as if our lives depended on it, looking back on it now, they probably did.
Omar was in that yellow raft with us, he and my father paddled as I hung on looking back at the island where my mom’s body rested. Tears ran down my face under the hot tropical sun, their salt joining the big blue Pacific. I remember the total jubilation as we made it to shore. We were received by the other survivors and the joy only grew as they gave everyone the “good” news. The island had a hospital left behind by the military from World War II and more importantly, a well.