Finally, she was parallel to her dog. She kicked her legs to push herself high out of the water and yelled “THIS WAY! THIS WAY!” She treaded water in the thick wave and pointed to the shore. “THIS WAY! THIS WAY!”
He came. Grady’s head came closer and closer. He was swimming, paddling toward her, toward the shore, and soon he passed her and headed to shallow water. He’d gotten himself out of the riptide. She could see him getting his footing and climbing up on the sandy beach. He turned then and looked back at her. His tail was wagging. He was panting, that smiling look he always had when he ran far ahead on the beach. He was happy.
She gasped. Tried to settle herself for the swim back to shore. It looked far, farther than she’d thought coming out. But it would get easier as the water got shallower. She just needed to stop treading water and stretch herself out to swim. She leaned forward and kicked a strong frog kick and then the wave hit her hard in the back of her head. She went under. Bubbles from the wave surrounded her. Frothy, the water was frothy, but hard like a car door slamming shut.
Her t-shirt filled with water and ballooned around her face. The surprise of it made her yell out but she was still under water so her shout filled her mouth. She coughed, choking, her hands reaching for the surface. And then she felt the air, she went toward the air, and she emerged from beneath the wave to be on her back rocking, the next wave coming any minute, she could feel it gathering, building.
She rested. Counted on her fingers. Touched her thumb to each finger. 1 – 2 – 3 – 4. First her right hand and then her left. Counted. 1 – 2 – 3 – 4. She learned this in meditation. She breathed in through her nose and out through her mouth. She needed to calm herself before starting out. Rid herself of the panic. So she counted and whispered to herself This Way! until the water had quieted and she was alone in the lake, floating.
Her eyes closed, Irene rocked on waves that had become gentle, mother like. She could die now, fold into this water, sink into this lake, her beloved place. But Grady! She turned her head toward the beach. She saw him up on all fours, looking at her, taking steps toward the water, backing up and coming toward her again.
“GRADY! WAIT! WAIT!”
Read Part 1 of Grady and Irene here.
Read Part 2 of Grady and Irene here.