Two lines of finite hairs. A brown so light that’s not quite blonde. Set above two light blue eyes with bursts of yellow streaks circling from the pupil, clawing through the irises. The light trace of a scar through those not so blonde hairs demands my attention in every glance of my reflection. My left eyebrow looks as though it was severed in half, a quiet line of skin that refuses to grow hair. My rash decisions and constant activity, paired with a flawed sense of balance, left scars on my knees and hands. The one on my eyebrow carries the most significance though.
We bought a boat. I was at the ripe age of seven or eight, my hair a wild mane that could break brushes in half and blue cutoff overalls my outfit of choice. I affectionately called our boat, “Boat.” I was a creative child. It was an eighteen foot speed boat that had three open seats in front, cherry red and off white cushions stained from years of salt water. They slid out of their hold, hiding a massive tangle of ropes and two anchors on one side. I’d scramble up the small metallic swinging ladder and dart around, aiding in packing for our expedition. I would jam sun stained life vests into the cubbies and then check our supplies. Sandwiches, chips, sodas. My dad would check for the actual essentials: sunscreen, flares, an extra set of keys. I was a first mate with high priorities.
That summer, I was part marine mammal. At the lake across from my house I’d wade into the water, swimming for hours on end. The lily pads would greet me, gently nudging my face while I paddled through. With the sun painting our wooden porch gold I’d wait endless hours for my dad to come home from work. Simply hoping for the slim chance would take the boat out on the water. I waited all summer for my dad’s vacation hours. I knew we would spend the entire day on the beach; hunting for hermit crabs underneath brightly colored rocks, building architecturally unsound cities in the fine sand. My brother and I would anxiously wait for the tide to sweep up the sand, scrambling up rock faces to jump into the cool water beneath.
Despite the fact the little speed boat was built for freshwater, we’d take it out on the ocean. It was better than any roller coaster, rolling over massive swells. My best friend would join on our ocean excursions, both of us demanding the front seats of the boat. The yellow and green life jackets would fit loosely, we’d tighten the straps until the clasp was suffocating our ribs and the straps were cutting into the sponge like material. My dad would pull the boat away from the oversized buoy. My friend and I would pull up the anchor as our umbrella, towels, and people on the beach become miniscule and insignificant. Once we passed the line of rocks serving as a break wall the waves would grow in size. The cool metal railing lining the front seats would grow hot underneath our clenched fingers. Stomach dropping down to my feet, hair whipping my face, eyes watering, it was heaven. We’d cut through the waves, engine roaring, the front of the boat pointing high into the sky. I would always glance at my little sister in the back of the boat. Face screwed into a grimace and fingers plugged firmly into her ears. She hated everything about these excursions.
The day I got my scar we headed from our secluded beach into the vast ocean for a barbeque on a sandbar. The ocean was more choppy than usual; the wind whipped and the waves protested our presence. We pulled up to the sandbar, dozens of boats lining the shallow water around our temporary island. The sun baked down on my already browned skin while we explored the sandbar in the middle of the ocean. Small green crabs scuttled across my toes as I unsuccessfully chased them with a butterfly net. It was a typical beach day for us. Getting ready to leave I helped pull the anchor up into its cubby, carelessly shoving the cushion back in its place.
There were still a few hours until the sun rests for the night, but the grey clouds pressed in overhead. The swells were huge as me and my friend clung to the front of the boat. My sister’s face was in a frown so deep only a five year old could achieve it, her brow furrowed and her eyes closed. As my eyes were on her we hit the bottom of a swell and my stomach dropped. The cushion came loose and jostled me enough for my body to go flying. My head smashed into the God forsaken handrail as I plunged into the water. Blood poured from my eyebrow and into my eyes as seawater flooded my mouth. Hyperventilating and chocking on salt water I doggy paddled in circles, panicking. Seaweed swirled around my foot and the waves crash around me, the undertow tugging at me. I thought I was a goner for sure. My dad cut the engine and scooped me from the threatening ocean. Shaking and crying I sat in the back of the boat alongside my sister as we headed back towards solid land.
I learned to swim at an early age, always wanting to be on the same level as my older brother. That was our primary form of entertainment. Those days spent at the pond for hours were gone. Our adventures on the beach ended at the shore line for me. I could never get back in the water. My excursions on the boat were done, and I drifted further from the closeness of my siblings. The closest I get to swimming now is wading up to my waist at the beach. I used to be part marine animal.