Musical chime of an incoming text message brought abrupt context, returning me to the present moment as no human voice could ever have done. The sound was familiar, in the way we have all adapted to technology, attuned to when our personal battery powered device — and the outside world — wants attention.
I realized this sound instinctively, even though it was not my sound.
No time to look down, search for his phone.
Water sloshed around my knees. His water bottle floated half submerged, nudging against the bare skin of my legs. Pair of floating flip-flops. Dark lines of wind rushed across the surface of the Res toward me, ushering waves. I dug in with the kayak paddle, spinning the boat to meet the swells bow-on. The tandem rocked unpredictably, my weight in the very front. Maintained control but overcompensated...unfamiliar.
Clumsy piece of cheap plastic shit of a craft.
Not my boat.
I knew my chest was going to bruise where it had hit the front transom, cupped-hand-paddling face down, intense and focused, out to where I had retrieved his floating paddle. I glanced to the right, toward the boat launch ramp. Emergency vehicles. Specialized rescue dive boats prepping for launch.
Six minutes ago, I was standing where they are now.
I twisted my torso, centering my balance, looked back over my shoulder into the kayak, taking inventory...looking for clues: empty Wendy's fast food bag, half-empty water bottle, his short-sleeved bright red polo-shirt tossed on the rear seat. Rocky shoreline perhaps 50-70 yards astern.
Still kneeling I straightened forward, centering my soul, and resumed the task at hand. The water was murky, dense, choppy. I was mentally prepared for what I knew I might find. But there was no disturbance in the wave patterns around me. No sunlight on alabaster in the visible depths below me.
Nothing left to strive for, nothing more to risk.
I had not been fast enough.
In a few more minutes, high-tech police watercraft would arrive. Dive teams. Helicopters. They would take over where I had left off. Everyone already knew what we were going to find. I still couldn't believe I'd seen what I just witnessed.
I floated, drifting, and called Laura on my cell phone to tell her.
IMAGES: Police report, submitted 7.24.2014.