Sunken Treasure

29 Feb

Through sputters of salt water and flailing arms, I surface from an errant and clumsily executed cannon ball. The ocean floor lies twelve feet below the undulating floating dock from which I leapt, barreling into the water’s surface with a crack. Wiping the sting of sunscreen from my eyes with one hand and keeping myself afloat with the other, I can make out my companions lounging on the safety of the dock, calling out their generous scores for my rather graceless acrobatics. The eastern coast of Barbados is just a short swim away, where our towels are damp with the vestiges of earlier dips in the sea, carelessly strewn across the white-sand beach. In this act of childlike play I feel momentarily weightless—partly from the gentle support of the waves after my somewhat painful entry, but mostly from thrill of this small adventure.

But the adrenaline rush is brief, punctured by the annoying feeling that something has gone awry other than my cannon ball. In a split second I discover my error; frantically grasping at my ears, I make the aching realization that I am missing one diamond earring. One precious diamond earring from a pair that was gifted to me by my parents on the day of my graduation. One dear-to-me diamond earring with a backing that was loose enough to pop off in the jolt of my reckless cannon ball.

With all of the eloquence I can muster in this moment of disappointment and rage, I shout, “Oh shit! Fucking fuck!” My body, once enlivened from the thrill of impulse, now dangles listlessly below the surface. The sun beats down mercilessly into my squinting eyes, daring me to cry. Tears well up, but I can’t tell if it’s from the salt water and sunscreen or the thought of my keepsake being slowly buried beneath water and sand.

Each set of waves seems more unruly than the last and the sand on the ocean floor looks more turbid than just moments ago, like the elements are conspiring to keep my treasure for their own. My swimming companions—my husband and his two sisters—give their condolences as I slowly approach the dock, performing a crude front crawl. Each stroke takes me through another stage of the grieving process.

Stroke. Maybe it fell off in bed and I didn’t notice. It’s probably just sitting on my towel. Stroke. Why the hell would I do a cannon ball in the first place? I’m a diving person. I hate cannon balls. Stroke. I’ll find it. If I find it, I’m never wearing jewelry swimming again. Never. Stroke. I really don’t want to tell my parents. Why did this have to happen? Stroke. I guess I can make the other one into a necklace. At least it wasn’t my wedding ring. Stroke.

My husband and his sisters have reached the optimistic consensus that, with the aid of our novice snorkel gear, we can recover the earring from the ocean floor. My hopes are buoyed by the group’s feigned positivity, and I wait nervously on the dock as Luc, my husband, and Lindsay, his older sister, swim ashore to fetch goggles, snorkels and fins.

Upon Luc’s return, three of us don our gear and plunge to the ocean floor in search of my lost earring. About five minutes have passed since our search began, and I’m already sitting back on the dock, defeated and deflated. I can see the sand on the ocean floor shift with the rhythm of the waves; if the earring is even still close by, it’s no doubt buried.

Miraculously Luc splashes to the surface with one arm extended, “I found it! Got it!” Eyes widened in disbelief, I spout a happy string of expletives, this time fueled by disbelief rather than rage. It looks like the ocean didn’t want my nostalgic treasure after all.

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