I sit on the edge of the dock, feet in the water, goggles fixed on my face, while Tahoma instructs: “You’ll have to pull yourself to the bottom. It’s gonna be hard to stay down. The salt will make you want to float. And whatever you do, don’t breathe any water in.”
Okay. Got it.
I don’t feel good about my chances, but I can’t give up without at least trying. We’ve already troweled the bottom with a 10-foot pole. Each time, I yanked the net onto the dock, hopefully digging around in the muck and silt for my cell phone. Each time, my hand came out empty except for a thick layer of slime.
I slide down into the cool water next to my boat, while Tahoma pushes the pole down to the bottom and holds it steady. With a deep breath, I drive. I pull myself hand-over-hand down the pole, until I hit silky mud. I scramble around for a few seconds before running out of breath. As soon as I let go of the pole, the natural buoyancy of the Great Salt Lake yanks me up to the top.
As I bob there in the water, my stomach sinks. The goggles are useless; it’s so murky down there, all I could see was a blur of brown. And even if, in my blind, frantic flailing in the mud, my hand happens to knock against my cell phone, I realize I’d probably never be able to actually get a hold of it.
And even if I did, cell phones just don’t recover from being completely immersed in salt water.
Still, I dive again. On the third try, the goggles leak, and a blast of salt water goes up my nose. I’ve gotten a nose full of sea water before, but this burns in my sinuses like nothing else.
I haul myself up onto the dock, coughing and snorting. I’d thought “don’t inhale any water” was obvious and simple advice, but clearly I should have paid more attention.
I lay on the dock, coughing and wiping water out of my eyes. “It’s gone, Tahoma, isn’t it?”
I can tell he doesn’t want to say so, but it is. It was gone the instant it hit the water.
“Here,” he grabs a hose. “Let me rinse the salt water off of you.” I sit up cross-legged, while he runs fresh water over my head and clothes. It feels oddly ceremonial—baptismal, even—sitting cross-legged on the dock while an old Navajo pours water over me.
Jack walks up. “Any luck?”
I blink at him from under the stream of hose-water. “It’s gone.”
“Well. You know what I say?”
“Shit, piss, fuck. Come on, have a shot of tequila.”
“Shit, piss, fuck,” I agree, standing up.
Fletch and Caleb are already hanging out on Jack’s boat. Sister walks down the dock, too, and Fletch holds her hand as she cautiously steps over the rail.
Jack yells to a young couple who have a boat down the dock, “Hey, come have some tequila!” He disappears underneath to find the bottle.
Sister frets about my wet clothes. The air is still warm enough that I don’t mind being sopping wet. “I think I need a drink more than I need dry clothes right now.” I keep seeing my beautiful, 2-month-old cell phone disappearing into the murky brown water.
“Ahhh, we’ve all got stuff at the bottom of the lake.” Fletch consoles me. “Everyone out here makes an offering to Davy Jones’ Locker.”
“You’ll have to meet Adam,” Caleb adds. “He’s got the record. He lost 14 cell phones out here.”
Jack comes up top with a bottle of light brown Tequila. “You know this is the cheapest stuff you can get at the liquor store? And it’s the best. Look. One hundred percent Agave. That’s the good stuff. And most people don’t even know it.”
He gives me the first taste. I drink the tequila too quickly, and he corrects me. “You have to swirl it around in your mouth, savor it. Like a good wine.”
“Or like mouthwash,” Fletch adds.
The couple from down the dock join us for beers, tequila, and general bullshit.
Night rolls in, bringing with it a cool breeze off the lake, and I start to shiver. Time to get a shower and get to bed, I tell them.
As I try to clean up my boat a little bit, and get it at least suitable to sleep on for my first night out here, Jack walks over, beer in hand. “You have everything you need?”
“Look,” He surveys the mess that I’m picking through. “If you want to, you’re welcome to go sleep on my boat for the night. Now, don’t worry, I’m going home tonight. Got to be at church tomorrow morning. You’ll have the boat to yourself, I promise. Just, you know, so you can sleep somewhere comfortable.” He gestures to my boat. “You don’t have to deal with this bullshit tonight.
I look down at the mess of dirty cushions and sails and rope, the hot plate and crock pot and pans and cables that I’ve accumulated in less that 12 hours of being at the marina, and the dark lake where, somewhere ten feet down, my cell phone rests in a watery grave. “But it’s my bullshit, Jack.” I put a hand on the hull. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”