He eases himself into the other chair. The large crucifix nestled in the middle of his chest glints in the setting sun.
“Hey, wanna go for a jet ski ride tomorrow?” he asks.
I note aloud that the lake is flowing the wrong way.
“That’s an old wives’ tale,” he says.
I argue that the lake is right more often than not.
“Well, think about it,” he says.
I say that I don’t have a bathing suit. He says I don’t need one. I say that I’m not a good swimmer. He says that he has life vests in my size.
“We’ll see, “I say.
Not until I reach the kitchen door do I realize that the tire swing is back, hanging from the same branch it always did, swaying gently in the breeze.
The next morning, we’re packing the car as Walter approaches and asks about the jet ski ride. “Go,” David says. “I can take care of this.”
I run into the house, put on a pair of shorts, slather on some sun screen, and walk down the yard to Walter’s dock.
“I’m gonna sit here, and you sit behind me,” Walter says, throwing his leg over the machine as if mounting a horse. “You can hold onto me,” he adds, indicating his shirtless midriff, “or this bar.”
I grab the bar. He revs the motor. Gasoline spills into the lake. He revs again, and we’re off, tending to one side, accelerating in great lurches. He hugs the perimeter of the lake. The force of the wind is ferocious: I could scream at the top of my lungs and he wouldn’t hear. It’s a gorgeous, cloudless day. Yes, the gasoline stinks and, yes, the engine makes a racket, but the exhilaration of sheer speed, the sun and spray on the hot day, and the force of the wind remind me at first of the one and only motorcycle ride I ever took, with a college boyfriend, up in the hills behind the school.
But no, this is different: this is entirely new, like nothing else. We circle the lake. He takes me around the island I’ve never reached in my kayak, and near reed-choked inlets I didn’t know existed. When we near his dock, I find my heart sinking, hoping he won’t stop. He doesn’t. We circle again, and then a third time, but the next time, he cuts the engine, and we drift back to shore.
Walter’s wife greets us at their dock. “You could have at least worn a shirt,” she says to him.
“She don’t mind,” Walter says.
He helps me out. I help him stretch the tarp over the seats.
“Well?” he asks.
“Well,” I say, and suddenly I’m at a loss for words. How do I begin to explain that it’s been a long time since I lost myself like that, allowed an experience to swallow me, to have all of my senses on high alert. I honestly don’t know what to say. But later, driving home with David, I realize that all I wanted to say—should have said—was “Thank you.”
Roberta Israeloff is a writer, editor, teacher and director of the Squire Family Foundation. She lives in East Northport, New York. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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