Two years ago, hubby and I ventured over to Catalina Island in mid February. Just the two of us.
On the one hour boat ride over to Catalina, we enjoy the wind blowing through our hair and the words, “It never rains in Southern California” seem ominously untrue with the dark clouds looming above. But it doesn’t actually rain. Much. By the time the boat pulls into the docks, the sun is beaming and we are on our way to four days of Operation Anniversary Adventure, Take 12. In three months, we’ll be married twelve years. We are celebrating a little early this year.
After we check into our spacious villa that overlooks the ocean, we venture down to the waterfront in our golf cart [hubby’s first time driving one] for a late lunch/early dinner and some grocery shopping. We figure we’ll cook some of our meals to offset the cost of the nicer accommodations, and when you’re only feeding two mouths—cheese, crackers, fruit and cold cuts count as a meal.
After a yummy foodie experience at a local Mexican eatery, we stroll the waterfront and share rocky road in a waffle cone. The sun is setting and I’m giddy happy to be chilling with my best friend on an island, of all places.
|Dolphins greeted us Every Morning!!
We make our way to the grocery store to pick up our half week’s worth of munchies. Strawberries. Pepper Jack cheese. Avocados. Jalapeno havarti cheese. Grapes. Ah, throw in the gouda too. Go a little crazy! It’s our anniversary, after all. Oh. And don’t forget the bacon, for our dolphin-watching breakfasts!
While we’re standing at the check out, I suggest we split up. I’ll walk over two streets and pick up a few adult beverages so we can make our own cocktails for evenings when we’re enjoying our room. The villa has a full kitchen, including small appliances like a blender. Yeah! Splitting up will save us time, I reason. Makes sense to hubby. In the meanwhile, hubby can pay for the food, load the golf cart and meet me out front of Catalina Spirits.
It’s dark now, probably close to 8:30PM, but there are still plenty of people (I’m sure many of them tourists) still out and about. So I’m the least bit nervous as I walk over to the store I’m looking for. I purchase the goods relatively quickly, walk outside and find a park bench on the sidewalk to sit on.
It’s even darker now. Several minutes pass. Then several more. Then several more. The owner is locking up his store behind me so I ask him what time it is.
And this would be the one time I forget to charge my phone. It’s in my palm for security purposes but it will neither ring nor be rung. Darn it.
“Sorry to bother you, but my phone is dead. Can I use the store phone and just call my husband to let him know I’m ready. And I’m waiting for him.”
“Sure.” Kind store owner unlocks door and leads me to the counter which he walk behind and hands me the receiver off the wall. I dial. Two rings. Three. Four. Then hubby’s voice. On the voicemail.
“Ummm. Babe. Where are you?” My voice sounds annoyed as I leave a message. “I’m waiting here.”
“Thanks.” I say as the owner returns to locking up his store, and I sit back down on the bench.
“Good night.” He replies as he walks off into the night.
Sigh. How long does it take to load the food and drive over two blocks? Maybe he got confused and couldn’t find our golf cart. That’s all you see on every street. Everyone here drives one, and they all look alike, even if they’re not identical. He should be here any minute.
More time passes.
Excuse me sir,” I ask another person. “Do you have the time.”
“9:15. Do you need a ride?”
“No. My husband’s on his way.” I hope. I’m pretty sure. Of course he is. But where is he?
Several minutes more pass, and I have long since abandoned my park bench seat. I’m pacing the street. Ten steps one way. Ten back the other. Crossing the street. Crossing back. Looking at every passing golf cart with a rise in hope. Then a sinking heart when it zips by. No hubby. No where.
I then stand on the park bench, thinking maybe I can see further from three feet off the ground. More than an hour has passed since we parted ways, and I am now calling his name, while on top of the bench. Softly at first. “Santhosh. Sun. Santhosh. Babe. Babe!”
My voice rises. And now only a pedestrian or two are within earshot. The streets seem suddenly and eerily empty. More and more lights of store fronts dim, then extinguish. The safe feeling I had when I first arrived is no longer there.
“Santhosh! Where are you?” I’m not ashamed. I am screaming like I lost my kid. But I feel like the kid lost. “Babe! Baaaaaaabe! Sun!”
Then I give in to the debate that has been dueling inside me for the past several minutes. I decide to retrace my steps back to the grocery store. I know this is a big no-no. We agreed long ago, stay put. Stay in the agreed upon place. That’s how we’ll find each other if we ever split up. It’s what I tell my kids. It makes total sense. But now I feel recklessly anxious and tired of standing on this bench, screaming like a maniac. So I go. Run actually.
Holding the two bottles close to me to keep them from clanging, I run back up and down the blocks until I reach the grocery store. Couldn’t have taken more than five minutes. A steel, mesh gate is pushed halfway across the opening. They are about to close.
“Remember me?” I ask the cashier who looks at me like I’m interrupting her concentration. I’m sure she wants to finish up with her last customers and retire for the evening. “I was in line with my husband. Tall. Dark. Goatee. Have you seen him?”
She’s shaking her head no, not even answering with words. I realize this was a bad idea. A fruitless venture. A dead end.
I run back through a walkway that cuts back faster two streets over until I’m back where I started. The empty, dark, park bench. And Sun is no where in sight. In fact, there are even less golf carts than before parked on both sides of the street.
So now I do what I have been trying my best not to do. I start crying. Every possible terrible thought floods my mind on the tail end of my prayers.
Where is he Lord? Oh God, let him be alive. Please let him be okay.
I’m so scared, I begin thinking…
He’s been kidnapped.
He’s been knifed by some gang members and they’ve stolen his phone and his wallet.
He’s been beat up by thugs and he’s lying somewhere bleeding to death.
He’s been killed by these gang member thugs, and now I have to call my parents and his and tell them the news.
How will I explain this to the girls?
How will I live…without him?
I don’t even know the address of where we’re staying. I’m in a new place. I know no one here. It’s late at night. Who do I turn to? Who will come and help me take the body home? Will I even find his body?
How will I live without you?
I debate walking back to the grocery store again. I begin cursing myself for suggesting we save time. I should have just waited for him. We could have come over here together. Me and my bright ideas. As my heart pounds fiercely inside me, I feel like I’m gonna explode.
Through my blubbering, I give my calling from the perched bench one last attempt. I can barely see, my eyes are blurry with tears.
“Santhosh! Sun! Babe!”
Then out of the shadows, Santhosh appears and his eyes look heavy with worry. He’s not smiling either.
“Where were you?” I whimper, before falling into his arms and holding on for dear life. “I thought something bad—really bad—had happened to you.”
“I was waiting for you.” Hubby shakes his head. And squeezes me tighter.
But not where I thought we’d agreed to meet. Sheesh.
“Were you worried?” Was it just me?
“Yeah. Of course. That’s why I came looking for you.”
I’m still choking up. I don’t want to let go.
“Sorry you.” Sun says after a few moments of neither of us speaking. “Sorry we couldn’t find each other.” Hubby’s arm clasps me around the shoulder firmly, keeping me glued to his hip, and we walk back over one block to our golf cart. Together.
As we rehash the hows of the crazy mix-up, come to find out the street hubby had planned to turn down was closed off by the waterfront walkway, so he parked there and walked toward the street I was on. He reasoned that surely I would walk in his direction and he’s see me and call my attention to where he was waiting. When, in his mind, too much time had passed, he backtracked to the grocery store too. We must have just missed each other, and the oh-so-helpful cashiers would make great witnesses if their food store was ever robbed. Not! In those long minutes of waiting, we both allowed our minds to think the worst case scenarios. Me more so than him.
And that’s how our anniversary started. With a powerful reminder—that in a blink of an eye—anything can happen. And everything can change. I thought, really thought, I lost my husband today.
When I recall that crazy night, the possibility of almost lost still bleeds inside me like a cut I cannot reach.
Life is full of moments of loss. But when what you thought was lost is found, it’s like pulling your heart from the grave. And that thing—that person—you thought you lost, you hold onto just a little tighter. Treasure a little more dearly. And celebrate a little louder. Really loud!
The extremes of life. Sadness and Joy. Fear and Courage. Despair… Hope.
This is my writer’s dream:
To write stories of the extremes in life—extremely well.
**Ever “almost lose” something or someone very special to you?
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