comes as waves. One small surge after another nudging her slowly out of her
depth until she is treading water and she knows. The fear is no longer just
around her and above her, it is beneath her, rolling and reeling. The tentative
solid ground she held is still there, but too far away, she cannot reach it.
She tries to keep calm. She can do this. She has done it before. She can tread
water, she is strong, she can last until the solid ground comes back within
reach. But each second, each minute, each hour of treading water is draining
and exhausting. And the fear surrounds her, rushing and billowing. At first, it
rocks her and the feeling is familiar and the familiarity deceives her because
she has been here before and she knows what to do, she has well-worn strategies
for fighting the fear. And so she surrenders to the old familiar rocking and it
pulls her off course until she cannot remember which way she is facing and she
cannot remember the solid ground that is way, way beneath her. The swell pitches
and reels, pulling her this way and that way, until her head is spinning and
her body is thrown. And then the fear rises underneath her, propelling her
toward the sky, further away from solid ground, and the rocking becomes violent
and unpredictable, plunging and pitching her around, and she is drowning in the
fear and it is stronger than she is. And as it takes her, masters her, her control
slips and she falls back on base instinct, throwing every ounce of her small
strong body into survival, a wild, unchecked fight, trusting no one and
nothing, not even herself. She is riding the waves because she has no choice and
she knows they could crash, overwhelm her at any moment.
someone riding the waves with her. She is aware of them. They hold an orange
life ring. Sometimes the deluge brings her closer to them and they push the
circular object towards her. She won’t take it. Like the initial familiar
rocking of the waves, it is a trick, offering false reassurance so she will
stop fighting and be lost. Everything is at stake. And she fights the ring and
the person too, throwing everything she has at them and more.
The fear is
deep and lurching now, crashing in enormous waves all around her. Panic swirls
and eddies through the current. Terror winds itself around her limbs, hauling,
dragging her down. She reaches out, hands graze rubber. The life ring. Iron
fingers grip because she has no choice. She gives herself up to the waves and,
with each passing moment, her trust in the orange object increases. She opens
her eyes. Her co-swimmer is there, holding fast to the other side. She thinks
they are pulling against the prevailing tide. She doesn’t know where they get
their strength from. The violent dizzying waters begin to recede, slowly
becoming a more gentle bob. They float there, together.
spent, exhausted, every particle of fight drawn from her and washed away. She
feels the life ring dip and move. Arms reach out and hold her tenderly. She
sinks into them, lets them take her weight. They carry her, gently. She becomes
aware that the feet of this person are planted on solid ground once more. They
sit in the shallows. The waves lap around them. They are drenched in fear but it
is no longer ascending. They both know that it will come again, that they will
repeat this feat of endurance as many times as it takes.
But for now,
they sit. She is held. She is safe. She closes her eyes. The wind strokes her
face. And for a time, she sleeps.