the rules


I was at a beach —

In Florida. I was already tired when Jamie said, Hey, let’s swim out. I said I was tired. I had been in the water a long time already. I had just come in. But I was the only swimmer in the group and Jamie needed a partner. Jamie said, We’ll just swim out to the sandbar. You can stand up out there. I said, How far? He pointed. It wasn’t that far. Maybe a half mile. I said, Sure, I can do that. So off we went.

And we got a half mile out. And —

No sandbar.

Natch, the right thing to do was keep going, right? Keep swimming out for the sandbar? It couldn’t be much further and I was pretty tired and didn’t want to swim a half mile back without a break. Well probably not the right thing to do. But that is what we did. We kept going.

I know what a mile is because in high school I used to run around a football field that was exactly a quarter mile per lap. I ran that football field lap a lot — I got in trouble a lot. [That was before the knees quit on me forever.] I figure we did another six times around that football field, out in the ocean, looking for that sandbar. And still —

No sandbar.

So there we were way out in the ocean. And I mean way out, we were probably about two miles out at this point. And THEN we headed back.

By now I was beyond really tired. It is one of those stupid things, like you want a towel that just fell on the floor but you are too lazy to lean down to pick it up so you think you will just pick it up with your toes? [Yay! No leaning required!] Only by the fifth or sixth time you drop it trying to pick it up with your toes, you would have saved yourself the time and effort if you’d just leaned down and picked the towel up in the first place? This doesn’t kill anyone in the bathroom — well, not often, anyway. But it does kill people in open water in the ocean.

We stopped to tread water and I said, Jamie, you are going to have to go back and tell David you drowned me. [I was kind of pissed about the whole drowning thing and wanted him to know he was going to suffer for it. He was too, David would be more pissed. Also, David was the boyfriend who would one day die a passenger in Jamie’s car — this was not the first or last time Jamie would be reckless with another person’s well being.] Jamie said, No, Max, I’ll pull you in. He meant it, too. Jamie was good hearted, if reckless. [Jamie died in the same accident with David.] But Jamie was struggling too. There was no way. We would both die. So I lied. I said I could make it. And he pretended to believe me.

We started swimming again.

I was numb. Cold. Couldn’t feel my arms or legs. I kept telling them to move. And they sort of did. But not enough. Not like they were supposed to. I was getting slower. And slower. Swimming forward was just staying in place. And it was getting easier to just stop.

Then I saw the sailboat.

It is amazing how much energy you find when you are ready to die and see something you can reach. The shore? No way in hell. But that boat? I stroked a collision course for that boat.

When I grabbed a line on the boat the guy on the boat was kind of surprised. He was just some tourist with his wife and two kids, probably not that great a sailor, just ambling along keeping the shore in sight in a rented little sailboat he probably didn’t have a lot of business being on. But who was I to judge? I didn’t have a lot of business being this far from shore tired out of my mind ready to drown. Probably he was not just surprised that I caught his boat, but that two people were stupid enough to be out this far too. And he looked like he really wanted me to let go of his boat. I said, Listen, I’m going to drown, you have to pull us in to shore. [By now Jamie was hanging onto his boat too so Boat Guy was getting really uncomfortable and starting to look around like maybe more arms were going to appear out of the sea and grab his boat.] And he said —

I can’t. The rules say we can only have four people on the boat.

Okay. Think about this. Someone in the middle of the ocean [okay not the MIDDLE, but you get the gist, we’re a freaking mile out] just told you she is going to die if you do not help her, and you are thinking about whether or not to help because of “the rules.” [Which by the way, in the sea are, you fucking save her.] Because, um, you might not get your deposit back.

I said, Listen, I don’t need to get on the boat, I just need you to pull us in to shore.

He was still having probs with the situation.

I said, I’ll pay your deposit.

[It was three hundred dollars. To live. Not a problem!]

Still no.

I said, You get, if you don’t pull us in to shore, we are going to die?

Still no.

Which is when I said, If you don’t pull us in to shore, I am going to capsize your boat.

So he pulled us in to shore.

On Facebook some of us were talking about this situation in Texas on Highway I-45. Almost thirty women were murdered — and more than that went missing.

The one that really got me was the twelve year old’s headless body dumped in a pond.

A guy friend on Facebook said, If you have to take that route, get a permit to carry.

I said, You don’t need a permit to carry. Only to carry legally.

And I remembered that guy on that boat. That guy so worried about the rules he was going to leave two people in the ocean to drown.


where the art work comes from:
that is from elif sanem karakoc

0 Responses to the rules

  1. Max,
    I’m teaching my students to take personal experiences and make people want to read them. This, is going to be exhibit one today. Beautiful! Beautiful! And Powerful.

  2. Despite my extensive vocabulary only one thing comes to mind: The sailor was a fucking selfish neurotic .
    Max, that was a very frightening story. And because it stirs up all kinds of emotions, a very good piece of writing as well.
    Thank you.

  3. Max

    Kym, I am honored. Rachael, thank you. Smooch!

  4. Oh man.
    Officially stalking your blog from afar after this one.

  5. My students loved it and were very inspired. Especially, one girl who has only reluctantly come to writing and was balking about doing personal experiences. She ended up doing a nice piece. Thank you.

  6. Max

    That is so cool. Tell them all I said good job.

  7. There are no rules in surviving.

    And as for that guy… my mind boggles. I wonder how his kids turned out.

  8. Man, I have chills. What an asshole. But I’m glad that asshole was there with his boat and you didn’t take no for an answer.

  9. Max

    I am glad he was there with his boat too.

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