They say, still waters run deep; these four words made immortal by a combination of both wisdom and beauty. So much insight can be embodied within a short expression formed out of thoughtful observation. Still waters run deep, but I say, so do turbulent ones.
I grew up by Shawinigan Falls. Locals knew about a deep, terrifying hole at the base of those rapids. What was known about it was mostly forgotten to the bottom of that pit along with the lives of those who were rumoured to have been lost there. I don’t know what’s true. Whether it was lies or fact, we knew two things; anyone sucked into that opening by the swirling, crashing waters, would never be seen again, and that everyone called it, “The devil’s hole.”
Uncertainty, fear, and possible myth lay at the bottom of a chasm so deep it represented death and carried the title of God’s greatest foe.
The tumultuousness before me was impressive. I peacefully rest my gaze upon it while being cradled by the spring breeze. Where there were no words, there was the spectacular sound of conflicting and crashing forces of nature.
I was fussing through my bag for my phone while sitting next to Megan on a large, flat rock surface between the rapids and the tree line.
“Tut, tut, tut!” The unexpected spontaneity of my own noises worked themselves into the weave of that of the waves.
The term, Tourette Syndrome, is a couple of scientific words with no poetry. It’s uncoordinated, noisy, and it crashes against the shore. Some people try to understand what’s at the bottom, while other’s speculate and create myth.
“God!” I blasphemously exclaimed with a distorted, frustrated expression. “My phone totally died.” My neck twitched, and my long hair fell over my face, while I blurted out words to which I wasn’t aware until they had already escaped. “Professional hairbrush cleaner!”
Megan politely ignored my complex tic outburst. “I thought you had a portable battery,” she speculated thoughtfully with studying eyes at the outdated technology I was holding. “I was going to borrow your charger. Mine is on its way out too.”
The far-off stare on Megan’s face was indicative of confusion, then her features changed to one of realization. “I thought it was strange that I wasn’t receiving notifications. I figured out that my phone is still on flight mode.” The explanation came with continuous flow, despite my interrupting combination of words and noises.
“Tut, tut, tut,” I clamoured in repetition.
Megan had flown back from to a trip to Florida. The two of us met the previous year on a Facebook group for local survivors of sexual assault. We formed a bond that would bring us past the virtual world.
My short utterances blended in with the beeps on Megan’s phone as the notifications rolled in. I observed her face fading to whitewash. After drawing my eyes away from this undefinable meaning, a quick look at the small, tightly grasped screen, was more telling than anticipated.
Messages painted by a full series of capital letters from a man convicted of rape were blaring up at us. Angry sentences indicated his sudden early parole in exchange for testimony. Further communications were of a vindictive intention to find her again.
The last message that appeared as we were reading, stated simply, “I can see you from here.”
I choked on the possible meaning of these words, then raised my view to scan the area. After spotting a man jumping over the far-off fence to get into our large, restricted area, I impulsively rose from my seat. Grabbing Megan’s arm, I pulled her up from where she still sat gripping her phone.
“Run! Tut, Tut Tut!” I urged while trying to control the rising anxiety that brought out intense, sudden jerking movements and utterances. I then tried to muffle the sounds with my shirt sleeve in my mouth, but shrill nasal noises still seeped out.
Our goal was the tree line. Running toward it was made difficult by different levels and sizes of rocks to tackle over. My hand was wound tightly with Megan’s fingers as we ran. Being out of breath helped stuff down the outbursts that would give away our location within the woods, where our view of the whitewater was fading.
“Wait,” I paused on our rush toward the deeper parts of the forest.
“We have to keep going!” she whispered urgently.
“He already thinks we’re headed that way.” I reached passed twitches and anxiety to think with impromptu strategy. “Let’s pull one over on him by getting back to the rocks further up the shoreline.”
After Megan’s permissive nod, as well as her line of sight toward the rapids, I gave her hand a reassuring squeeze that confirmed a silent agreement. Our destination seemed far, as my deep breathing scraped at my throat, and my teeth clenched to swallow the painful physical exertion. I slowed down briefly to grab a sizeable stick for possible self-defence.
Determination brought us to where we slipped in and hid between two large rocks. Surprisingly cold water filled our shoes.
I felt tic pressure rising; a foreboding indication that the silence protecting my friend would be broken. “I like radishes!” The meaningless words etched out of me and screamed passed my teeth. I grimaced while bringing my free hand over my mouth.
“He’s going to hear us” was Megan’s desperate whisper. “Squeeze my hand. Release, then squeeze again. Send your tics to your hand, and to my hand. We can do this; together.”
I read the urgency in Megan’s eyes, but when I was nervous, it was nearly impossible to keep my tics down.
“Bitch! I’m coming for you!” A loud brutal roar reached us from within the woods. I sensed he was close enough for us to hear his threat, but far enough away that our location was still an advantage.
“Dial 911.” A clenched jaw kept my voice down. “Tut, Tut, Tut,” came my signature vocalizations.
Megan didn’t even look at her phone. Her lips pursed. The words that followed were vacant and hollow of expression as she informed me that the battery was already gone.
A few quick, deep breaths gave away the panic inside me. Another surge of rising tic pressure welled up within. I felt fear at the probable consequence to my disruptions, then an awareness and comprehension of what I needed to do was born within the looks of camaraderie we shared.
I knew she would never allow anger at my neurological state, despite the fact that I was about to compromise hers, or both of our safeties. I felt that fond understanding within her; although soon, I also watched in recognition of the silent story within her expression that I once held within my own. No words were needed to say that she had given up.
Those who know about fighting with all their grit, but failing anyway, know that some battles are lost at the simultaneous defeat of the war.
There are fates where you survive, but part of you dies.
A slow, deep breath, was released as I studied the crashing waters and remembered the legend within them. I wondered if there was actually an unfathomable deepness resting beneath the chaos.
I was part of why Megan was in danger, but I didn’t have to be. I also knew, that despite a will to hold on, there was something I had to do.
Handing Megan the stick I collected, while offering a soft smile, was partnered with lasting words. “You’re going to be okay.”
Megan’s lips parted as if to speak but instead conveyed confusion to my meaning.
I gave her hand one more meaningful tight grip before letting go.
Megan finally formed a question before I turned away. “Elo, what’s going on?”
With a name like Eloquent, it certainly didn’t describe my intentions.
I managed to quickly pull out from our small space, then with a final, “Tut, tut, tut!” I lowered myself into the raging forces that carried me into them. The sounds I then would have made were muffled by thick, smelly, rapids, rushing over my head. Whatever Megan’s reaction was to my sacrificial ending in the name of saving her from rape, I couldn’t see or hear it.
A nose twitch, followed by a simultaneous, uncontrolled pulling of the muscles in my cheeks caused my lips to part, and for water to find its way in. The taste was one I might have claimed that I could never forget, but I was about to slip away and forget everything.
There was no way to see up or down, though I noticed the difference in the sound of the current on either side of me; a hollow whispering where the devil waited. I wasn’t afraid of the devil in the rapids or the devil from scripture. I was afraid of a much greater capacity for threat in what I had only confirmed within mankind.
At the bottom of our person, or at the bottom of “The devil’s hole,” is a basic need for faith for what we do not know.
I followed the current to where the devil yearned to greet me. If there was, in fact, a hole, my comprehension of it was waning, as thinking became difficult. My instinct was to panic, as well as to feed an urge to fill the increasing pain in my chest with air. In the moment where I may have fought for the surface, I was pulled into the beginnings of a crevice, then deeper within it, until a warmth built up behind my eyes. Suddenly, like the moment where we fall asleep without realizing that it’s happening, the person I was beyond the frame that held me, slipped away.
Who I was, along with my entirety, and the deepness of me, could be lost like bones wearing the fingerprints of the devil’s name.
I am, still, in deep waters. I rest motionless, and peaceful at the bottom of a mystery. I am truth that no one sees because another part of me is crashing against the shore. The sound is strong and the current is fast. It’s uncontrolled, unforgiving, and an unfortunate reality that creates stories about a devil’s hole.
Copyrighted to Melissa C. Water
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