The Writer's Lake
I’m sitting here, at my computer desk looking at the glistening water of the lake that took my wife’s life ten years ago while also writing this. The setting sun off to the right shines a beautiful red tint on the water. Well, beautiful to anyone else. To me, the water looks to be gearing up for another attack.
At this time, I don’t know if this is going to be the last thing I write, but I need to get it down. As a matter of fact, I’m not looking at the Mac I’m using; I don’t need to. My fingers know the places they need to go. Think of it this way: I thought about putting these words down for so long that my fingers know the words I am going to write even before I write them.
How about a little backstory? I’m not going into great detail on how we met, or the eight month long dating that ensued before we moved in together. That type of story has been written, talked about, or made into a movie so many times I have forgotten more than I have read, heard, or seen. It isn’t even the point of this note.
The point is to tell you how it all started, how it ended for my wife, and how it will probably end for me. Really, it did began when we first met. It was a bar in Austin when I was stationed in Fort Hood, Texas. I wasn’t always a writer. I spent a decade and a half in the military until I received my college degree in English Literature. It was a long process, unlike today, because I actually had to go to classes. Today someone can just go to their local education center on a military post to sign up for on-line classes. So, I took night classes. It was long and tiresome because of how much I moved around. I finally finished in Georgia, when we lived together.
Like I said, I met her at a bar in Austin. She just finished college herself (I still had a couple more classes to take) and was out celebrating. I knew from the instant I saw her she was who I wanted to be with. And the way she looked at me let me know she was interested as well. I walked up to her to ask what her name was. She said it was Brook. A lovely name for a lovely woman. At the time I didn’t place the symbolism with what would happen eleven years later, but it was there. We talked banter for a bit, nothing too special. Just the stuff of getting to know one another. At one point, and I knew this to be a lie because I definitely wasn’t, she even went as far to say I was the most handsome man in the bar. There were far too many men in the bar for her to even consider that. But I took the compliment all the same.
The courting really did take eight months. The night we met we didn’t do anything. I was not one of those guys who liked to “hook up” with random girls. I wanted something special. I had dreams I wanted to fulfill. She was one of those dreams. I asked for her phone number and where I could pick her up the next night. It didn’t take her too long to write the two items down on a napkin (one I still have to this day) and hand it over to me. She was as anxious as I was to go out on a date.
The next night I arrived at her apartment that she shared with two other recent graduates at eight. I knocked three times. On the third knock, the door opened and there she was. Getting a better look at her than in a dark, gloomy bar only enhanced her beauty. We went out, had dinner, and went dancing. Not to a hole-in-the-wall bar, but to an actually dance studio I heard about from some of my friends. We had a really good time, at least I did. I think she did too, because she wanted to know when the next date would be. I told her it would have to wait until the next weekend because I lived sixty miles away. I couldn’t continue to drive back and forth between the two cities to meet her. She understood and said the next weekend she would drive up to me.
On the next Friday night, she arrived at my apartment at eight, knocking three times. I didn’t waste much time. I was standing at the door much like she was the previous Saturday. There isn’t much to do in the area around Fort Hood, so this time we went to see a movie. Honestly, I don’t even remember the movie that we went to see. It was twenty years ago. She decided to stay with me that night. Again, nothing happened there. We were taking it slow.
That was the way things happened for the next eight months. There were times when she would stay with me, not in a living capacity, for a week or so. Sometimes, if I had a long weekend, I would stay with her down in Austin. But every time we would go to each other’s doors, we would knock three times, letting the other know we were there. Brook even made a quip about it. She said it was our special code to let the other one know who it was.
Finally, the time came when I had to leave Fort Hood. She knew it was coming. She was heartbroken about the matter. I didn’t want to leave her and she didn’t want to lose me. So, I asked her if she would like to go with me to Georgia. To live with me. She didn’t really have a career as of yet, and I think that was the reason she enthusiastically agreed. So, the three knocks ended in a sense. There were times when it was hard between us that we would use the three knocks to let the person know we were sorry. And it worked. The bad times were few and far between while we were dating and married. Speaking of the marriage, I asked her to marry me three months after we moved to Georgia together. Again, it took her no time to say yes. The next month we were married by the justice of the peace. A year after that I had my degree and ready to pursue my writing as a serious event.
My writing took off from the start. I can’t say when, but all of a sudden I was making six figures. The military got wind of it and decided that since I was making a good living with writing I shouldn’t be in the military anymore. It didn’t bother us. The only thing that bothered us was that we didn’t know where we wanted to go. We discussed it and looked at several places. We both knew what we wanted. A nice little lake side house. Some would say it was a retirement dream, but not to us. It was our family home. We found a good place in Tennessee we both loved. It took less than a month for us to buy the house and less than a week to move in.
And that is all I am going to say about that.
You are probably wondering why I blame the lake for my wife’s death. There is no easy way to say it, but the lake IS at fault here.
There was a nice calm day the summer of ’05. I had just finished writing the first draft of a new novel and was taking a break. I suggested to her we go out on the lake on our pontoon. Just a nice relaxing time. Much like everything else, she agreed to do so with hardly even a doubt. The lake was calm with a nice smooth west to east breeze. The sun shown down on us, not baking at all. We were out there for a good two hours in our bathing suits dozing and looking at the sky. That is when the trouble started.
All of a sudden, Brook jumped to her feet. She didn’t say a word. She only looked at the lake. I asked her what the problem was, but she didn’t answer. I don’t even know if she could answer. I grabbed her arm to pull her away from the edge of the pontoon. No matter how hard I pulled, she wouldn’t budge. I tried to move her head to look at me, but her neck was like it had concrete in it. She didn’t blink for ten minutes. Only stared at the lake.
Finally, she said it was calling her. I asked her what was calling her and still, there was no answer. She tipped forward, falling into the lake. I reached out to grab her again, getting my hand on the bottoms of her two-piece. The only thing that happened was the bottoms ripped off. She fell into the lake.
Most people would float. She didn’t. She sank to the bottom. I knew it wasn’t possible (now I don’t really know), but something was pulling her down. Of course, I jumped in after her. When I got my arms around her, I tried to swim up. That didn’t help. She continued to sink to the bottom, pulling me along as well. When I didn’t have any air left in my lungs, I swam back to the surface. Got a few breathes of air and went back down to get her. She was already too far down. I couldn’t reach or even see her.
I got back to land as fast as I could. When the sheriff’s department arrived they brought a dive team. The divers searched for three hours. They said they couldn’t find a body at the bottom. The sheriff said they would come back out the next day to look all day. They checked the entire lake and still no body.
I had a closed coffin funeral for her. How could I show the body when there was no body to show? Her grave is placed at the spot that she loved most of all on this lake. There is a little inlet of land into the lake we would walk to on occasion to sit. It took some money, but I paid for her to be buried there.
Every so often I walked to that place in the ground to sit with her. I don’t know if she is still there or not, but I hoped she was.
Five years after her death, my publisher dropped me. My agent said he would try to find another publisher. Nobody would take me. It was frustrating, but I accepted it. My agent and I decided that it was best to part ways. Self-publishing was just starting to take off. I decided I would try that route. It wasn’t too hard, the devoted readers would follow who they wanted. I did make a name for myself as a self-published author in no time. Once in a while, a book store would give me a call to do a reading. They would decide which book I would read from.
At one of the readings last year, one of my fans came up to talk to me. He was a nice enough fellow who also aspired to be an author someday. But there was one question he asked that kind of bothered me. He asked why all my stories seemed to have the same type of villain. I didn’t know what he met. He told me that if the villain wasn’t some form of water that the human villain would have a name corresponding with water.
That blew my mind. There was no way I would do something like that.
I went back and reread all the books I wrote after my wife’s death. And he was right. All of my villains were either a body of water or had a name that was water related. I didn’t even know I was doing it. But I could finally see why no publisher would take me. That didn’t hurt my book sales as a self-published author though.
Eight months ago, after I had finished the last book that I wrote and on the anniversary of our first date, three knocks came on our door. Of course, I answered the door. Nobody was there. I didn’t think anything of it. Probably just some kids playing ding-n-ditch. It wasn’t until about three months later I understood what was happening. The knocks were always coming at eight and always on days when we went to each other. I got to the point where I would be standing at my door waiting for the knocks. Never anyone there.
Tonight is the anniversary of the night I asked her to move in with me. Officially the last night of our dating. I surmised that tonight would be the last of the knocks and I will know what is going on.
Right now, it is one minute to eight. I am about to stop writing and walk to my front door. The lake has taken on a black gloom with just the slightest bit of light in the middle of it. The spot where Brook went in. I don’t know what that means. I want to find out though.
So, if there is more to this writing, then you know I am okay.