Officially cleared from the water and still clinging precariously to the wall, I burst into tears. I hunched over the rocks and cried. I was overwhelmed with disbelief. As I lifted my head up, a group of friends and strangers had gathered.
Holding my arms and steadying me as I tried to stand up were Rachel and Linda. Rachel smiled and crowned me with a maile lei; a very special garland of fragrant green maile leaves. I put my arms around her and cried. We hadn’t seen each other in over 12 years, and there she was, at the finish of my swim. I’m not sure what was more surreal: the swim or seeing my good college friend at the finish. I was so happy.
Next, I put my arms around Linda as she too crowned me with a Hawaiian offering: two beautiful miniature shell necklaces. Again, I cried.
Feeling uneasy and extremely shaky on my feet, I sat down on the rocks with Rachel. Joe came over and hugged me. Amongst the crowd were a reporter and cameraman from the local TV news station, Hawaii News Now. As the reporter, Ben Guiterrez, interviewed me for their upcoming 6pm news, my mind drifted. I barely recall the interview. My body was so depleted I wondered when I was going to pass out. I desperately need some calories to perk me up. But my body had yet to indicate what that first meal should be.
The next thing I know, I’m following Linda to her truck. With Joe holding my left arm and a stranger holding my right arm, still covered in lanolin, with my swim cap still on and wearing only my swimsuit and my new Hawaiian necklaces, I walk gingerly towards the truck. I must have looked like quite a sight.
A group of local teenage boys are walking towards us in their swimsuits and towels. With laser focus, I zero in on the containers each of them held in their hands. Clear drink containers with straws stretched out for drinking. Yet these containers were not empty. They were filled with a gloriously vibrant fuschia red icy liquid. Alarm bells sound in my mind. Pointing to the boys, I tell Joe and the stranger, simply, “I need that.”
I NEED THAT.
The boys likely saw my crazed expression and frightening appearance and backed away cautiously. “You can get these at Taco Bell,” they said, avoiding making eye contact. Before I knew it we were in the parking lot and Linda was handing Joe and I each a cup of icy Slush Puppie heaven - just what the doctor ordered.