I am taking pictures at the same spot where I was yesterday, now with the better camera. I don’t know where the water comes from–I am far back from it, standing on a dry rock. It charges in, grabs and throws. The first one goes and there are some others right after, fast, dumping me under. When it goes I don’t know which way is up, but I’m still holding the camera, and I can stand.
There are people on the walkway, a white tourist-looking couple, but they keep walking. I get up there, walk the short distance to the car. I check: nothing to the head or face. Just the right side scraped. The left has a scrape on the forearm and a dime-sized piece out of the arch of my foot. I realize I am faced with new problems: how do I get in the newly rented car without getting blood on it, how do I get the blood to stop? I don’t even have a towel. I have four paper towels, two used, that I used to clean the windshield.
I begin to realize my great fortune as I dab at the scrapes. I could have lost teeth. I could have a concussion. Drowned. Two stoner guys walk by. “Hey man,” they say, and walk to the water. Shortly after huge waves come in, almost to the head of the path. I hear the one shout: “Whoa, dude!”
I am there what seems like a long time. There isn’t anything else to do, anyone to call–I don’t need EMTs, I have no friends here. I realize bleeding a little is probably beneficial. I feel fear.
Yesterday at this same spot a gorgeous girl got into that water. Here the water crashes into something like a small box canyon, translucent emerald blue. It smashes up in spectacular waves, then mostly evacuates. I’d show you, but the pictures are on the drowned camera.
The girl got into that water. I’m on the phone and I half-think I should tell her not to go in, please don’t go in, but I don’t know, maybe she’s local and it’s fine. She steps over the rocks, toes gripping. She goes down to the water and gets in, and I watch her go under, swim down, bob in the water as it stalls. She gets out, goes to sun herself.
Standing there bleeding, I understand the warning signs that made me fearful the first day, and that the water could have killed her. Easy.
But she is sunning herself and she always will be.
After a while three paper towels are enough. I have another pair of shorts I arrange to sit on, sit forward of the seatback. There is a Target nearby for bandages. A woman in the checkout warms me about tropical diseases–you have to keep that in mind. She seems genuinely concerned, white like me. I am probably not as grateful as I should be. The native checker pays no attention.
I go back later for different bandages, antibiotic ointment, Hibiclens: I am following emailed instructions. Another white woman stands in the bandages aisle. Wow, rough day, she says (I think). She is beautiful too, older, but has that spacy, stoned aspect so common here. Yeah, big waves, I wouldn’t let my little ones in today. I ask her if she has any advice. She says something about what a baby she is and she’d be at the hospital asking for Percoset.
A woman from Wisconsin checks me out. I know because I mislabeled her as Minneapolis. People are so good with accents! she exclaims. She exudes the aura of a Garrison Keillor character, including the genuine concern that I be all right, call the ER if I need to.
It takes hours to wash everything, salve it, get bandages on. The picture is after the first shower, before going out for the second round of bandages. An after picture would be the same, but with comically applied tape and sterile pads.
And now I sit on the toilet writing this. I don’t feel afraid now, but tired. I wonder how I will avoid having to explain bandages for a couple days.
Is this one of the lessons I was meant to learn? Once is enough, thanks.