by Kerry McArdle Lee
My husband pointed them out. “She came down to the beach on a wheelchair,” he said, “and now the man is carrying her piggyback.” I looked up from my book.
How sweet, I thought. They were probably a retired couple, together for most of their lives. They were probably tourists and this trip to Maui was a big deal for them, considering it was not easy for her to get around. Of course she wanted to feel the water. But what did I know, a casual observer. Maybe they lived on the island, or they came here often and had a timeshare.
The man was walking to the water, his companion easily hanging on to his neck. Straw hat and floral bathing suit, she looked good, but his load was not a light one.
Would my newlywed husband do this for me someday, I pondered. In sickness and in health, ‘til death do us part. The vows were still fresh.
That January in Maui was hot but windy, which made the waves big and strong. Look at that, we commented to each other, they are past the point of getting her feet wet. Wow, he’s going in. How far is he going to go? Into the waves? He’s going to need help. Oh, that lifeguard is heading their way, phew. … No—wait, he didn’t even glance at them.
As the couple got further into the waves, the man was struggling, unable to walk anymore. What are they thinking, going out that far? A big strong guy on a boogie board said something to the man, maybe “Do you need help?” We were thinking, yes he needs help, finally someone has offered help! But, no, the man shook his head while the woman grimly held on.
Finally past the wave break, surely they can’t hold onto each other any longer.
We stood up. What’s happening? How will they make it? We squinted in the bright sun trying to see their fate, when suddenly he dropped her. And off she swam.