When he was five years old all he wanted was to swim. During our holidays, whereas other children enjoyed the amusement arcade, the children’s playground or the Punch and Judy, David only wanted to go down to the beach and spend hours looking for shrimps and crabs or snorkelling between the rocks, watching the little fishes.
He was our only child. Kate was unable to have another. She barely survived the birth of David and it was only after two subsequent operations that her health slowly improved so that she could lead a life of some normality.
Because of this we spoiled David. He was our one precious little gem, and we knew there would be no more. Kate thanked God every day for his existence and health. I was simply happy.
Nowadays Kate and I hardly speak. I still harbour deeper feelings for her, which some may call love but which only serve to confuse me. I don’t want to be alone with her. I can’t look into her eyes as I used to. Sometimes she sickens me. I know that for her it is the same. She only speaks when something needs to be asked or stated which is mundane or factual. “Do you want a coffee? We have no bread. I am going for a walk.”
She never asks how I am feeling or whether I can cope, nor even anything as simple as what my day at the office was like.
We have descended into a life of eat, sleep and work. There is no tangible way forward. The loss eats into my core.
It was our main holiday in Spain last year in September. We had been there many times and knew the beaches well. We always rent the same little house with private swimming pool.
David was eight and by now a very strong swimmer for his age. It was extremely hot and humid for this time of the year. We spent most of our time, either on the beach, or in our garden by the pool. We preferred the beach as David usually found some other children to play with and was happy to swim through the rocks with his snorkel, watching the highly varied marine life. He had no fear of water, something that pleased me, as I was such a weak and nervous swimmer, but which also raised little pricks of concern that he does not sense potential dangers. I was constantly warning him, “Make sure you don’t go too far, the currents are strong.”
“No problem Dad,” he would grin at me with his little cheeky face. “I’ll be careful.”
Kate was sleeping under the parasol. She was topless and I sat marvelling at the smoothness of her breasts and the perfect flatness of her tummy as it ran down into her bikini bottoms. She had fully recovered from the ordeal of giving birth and was this year, for the first time, confident to show her beautiful body on a public beach.
While I pondered the last three years and bathed in the satisfaction of believing that the hard times were now over for us, I marvelled at my luck. I had such a beautiful wife and son. I was smug in the glow of being such a lucky guy.
All of a sudden I glanced across at the rocks and couldn’t see David, so I stood up to get a better look. As I still couldn’t see him I ran down to the beach where he had been only a few moments before. I was not too worried. He is always difficult to spot when in the shallow water with his snorkel.
After a few more moments a concern started to build in the pit of my stomach. I asked some people if they had seen a little boy in red swimming trunks and a snorkel. No-one could help. There is a small cave behind the back of the rocks where we had been many times. It was possible to swim into the tiny cave opening and right at the back was a little sandy beach. We used to go in and play “echos” by shouting at the top of our voices.
I rushed into the water and swam round to the cave. Although I imagined that he couldn’t have been there because I had only taken my eyes off him for a few seconds, I could think of no other place where he could be. When the cave came into view I could see that the opening was completely below the surface, and knowing that David would not be able to swim in at high tide, turned back towards the beach.
I shouted his name on the beach, panic beginning to take over. Kate heard me and came running. We searched among the tourists for some more minutes but saw no trace of him.
The lifeguard came over to help us. He asked me where I had last seen him. As I explained I looked deeply into the lifeguards eyes and simultaneously we came to the same conclusion. The cave!
We raced to the water and dived in. I was in a frenzy of splashes and kicks, but was at the cave entrance before the lifeguard despite my poor swimming technique. I took one deep breath and went in. After looking for what seemed like hours I spotted the red of his trunks. I was overwhelmed with such relief to see him moving in what I assumed was an airlock in one corner of the cave.
As I lurched closer the realisation came in a wave of emotion that he wasn’t moving voluntarily. He was just bobbing with the current.
I grabbed him and pulled towards the cave entrance. He was limp and cold. My lungs were bursting. My sight was slowly draining away as I lost consciousness.
The next thing I knew was lying on my side spewing out slimy salty water and choking back green bile. As I gradually came to, I heard Kate screaming. It was horrific. The scream was coming out of her stomach which was too painful to bear. As I opened my eyes she began to shake me. I thought at first that she was shaking me to help me to recover, but then came the retribution.
“You bastard! You bastard! You killed him. You promised to watch out for him. I hate you.”
I looked at her with the dawning realisation of what had happened.
“Oh David.” I buried my head and couldn’t see or hear anything more.
It was a dark misty morning as we stood by the little grave.
When I looked across towards her all I saw was pain and hatred. While the words were being spoken I heard nothing other than a constant hum. I was not really there.
As the coffin was lowered I couldn’t breathe. I wanted to be in there with him. He was so alone.
If only I had swam with him on that day. If only I had not looked away for a minute. If only……
The guilt was too much to bear.
The last six months have been progressively worse. Her hatred has morphed into a cold numbness. We still exist as a couple but I know I am no more.
As I leap I will fly to him. I have never believed in a creator but at this moment I pray that I was wrong all along. I pray that there is someone or something which can reunite me with my boy. It is my only chance.
There is no note to write. There is no reason. I simply wish to go to him.
God, please give me my David back.