We are in Kansas City, land of my youth, visiting my brother. Today, we went to a really cool petting zoo/farmstead and for the bargain price of zero dollars and zero cents, you are in the door to warm and smelly goats, pigs, ponies, chickens and all that petting zoo loveliness. For the insanely reasonable price of $10 a person, you get a ride on a pony, a horse-drawn wagon ride, a chance to feed a baby goat with a bottle, a fishing pole rental and something else I don't remember, but I am sure is fabulous. Will rode the wagon and loved it. Will rode some pedal tractors and loved it. Will went into the farmhouse and flew down the slides and... you guessed it... he loved it. Then, it was fishing time.
We rented a cane pole and it took three people to bait the hook. Mike tried. I tried. Finally my mom schooled us on appropriate worming techniques. She channelled her dad on that one. Grandpa was a fisherman, and we reminisced about catching Blue Gill with him while Will threw out his line. First cast and his worm was gone instantly. Second worm... second cast... and Will caught his first fish. It was a Blue Gill and a fat one. He grinned as it flopped on the line. He posed for a picture and the fish twisted off the hook almost as soon as the picture was snapped. Mark dove for the fish to get it back in the water... Will freaked that the fish was flopping on the dock outstretched over the center of the fishing pond and within a nanosecond both the fish and Will went into the water. Splash. Silence. Panic.
Will had backed up to the rope railing and over the edge he went. Will can't swim. Will disappeared into the deep, murky water. I can still see his feet disappearing into the darkness. Will was gone.
Uncle Mike was in the water before anyone else reacted. As Will's splash resettled back onto the top of the pond Mike uttered "oh shit" and went in. It took only seconds and Mike held Will above the surface for Mark to grab from his arms. I don't know if I moved. I don't think I breathed. But, I know when I saw Will break through the water into the air all I could do is scream "Get my baby! Get my baby!" When Will was safely and soggy in my arms I breathed and said "get my brother! Get my brother!" who was then struggling to pull himself from the depths and back onto the dock. I held Will and I cried. I don't know where I was going, but I picked him up and carried him to a seat and I sobbed. I don't cry. I don't sob. But, I felt like my life almost ended in that 30 second experience. I held him and I cried. I caressed his hair and I sobbed. I bawled like a baby as I ran through all of the "what could have beens." I type this out, hours later, and the tears spill out again at the thought of what tonight could have been. What I could be typing. How I would even be existing if that dark water swallowed him and didn't give him back? My world would have ended today. My world could have ended today. Will went into the water, and I felt like I was drowning, if only for a few seconds. I couldn't breathe.
I can hear Will in the bathtub right now. Uncle Mike, Daddy and Jack in the bathroom playing and talking and splashing. I hear a splash from down the hall and I think of the splash from this afternoon. And I cry.