As we drove up the hill, I sipped some of my of my triple berry smoothie, the cup still cold in my hand. We had just gone to Columbo’s, a smoothie place up at the top of the mountain on St. John. My parents discovered it the first time they came to St. John, for a late honeymoon a few months after they were married, right about 14 years ago. My parents have gone every year since, taking me, my brother and my sister with them. Columbo’s has the best smoothies I’ve ever had. Today, being our last day, seemed like the perfect day to go. Taking the last sip is the worst part, I thought while slurping the remains of the smoothie out of the bottom of the plastic cup.
Passing the overlook, I gazed out of the window at the bay below, Cruz Bay, to be exact. The turquoise water was speckled with boats that were docked out in the bay, and sparkled in the sunlight.
My dad pulled our bright blue jeep into a parking space on the edge of the little parking area, next to a white sedan. I hopped out of the car and the wind caught my hair and lifted it off my neck, cooling me down in the process, even though the breeze was warm. We still had a long walk ahead of us, but I couldn’t wait to jump in the cool turquoise water.
I walked around to the trunk and reached in after my mom opened it. I grabbed my navy blue and white striped backpack along with a stack of towels and suddenly I heard the car door slam and my dad say to my brother Jack sternly, “open the door.” Dropping everything, I looked around the side of the car. My dad’s fingers were caught in the door. My brother yanked on the handle. No use: the door was locked.
“It’s locked Dad!!” my brother exclaimed in panic. My stomach rose and my heartbeat quickened. But to my surprise, my dad didn’t panic.
“It’s okay, I got it”, he said, with a calmness in his tone. He reached into the car and turned the key in the ignition and started the car. Then he clicked the unlock button on the car door, and opened the door himself. He pulled his fingers out of the crack in the door. They were all bloody and had been flattened a little, but not all the way. Thanks goodness.
The wind blew again, and this time, a little cooler. The dogs in the yard across from us barked and we heard the rumble of tires on gravel as another car pulled in on the other side of the parking area. A young couple got out and started to unpack their trunk, like we had been doing a few minutes earlier.
“Excuse me?” my mom asked them, “do you by any chance have a first aid kit?”
“No I’m sorry we don’t,” the women replied, looking concerned, “What happened?” My dad walked around the car to answer, holding his left hand in his right, fingers still bleeding.
“I slammed my fingers in the car door,” he said with a grimace.
“Oooh, that must have hurt,¨ the man said with a sympathetic look on his face, “We have paper towels, if you want,” he reached into the trunk and pulled out a roll of paper towels that looked like they haven’t been used. “Here,” the man handed it to my dad, “take as many as you want.”
My dad took it, unrolled it a little bit and ripped a few pieces off, all with one hand. Wrapping his hand in the paper towels, he replied, “Thanks,” and then tossed the roll back to them. My heart stopped beating as fast, and my stomach calmed. I walked back over the side of the car and grabbed my backpack off the ground. Swinging it over my shoulder, I dusted the towels off, set them under my arm and started to walk over towards the Virgin Islands National Park sign, right across from the beginning of the trail. I turned around to see if anyone else was coming and stopped short. My dad started shaking and fell forward onto the door. Then he crumpled down to the ground, with his head almost underneath the car. Tears sprang to my eyes and my stomach rose up to my throat and my heart started pounding. I wanted to help, but was stuck in my place, too scared to do anything.
“Mom!” I cried out, shaking with fear and sadness and helplessness and more fear and everything in between. My mom rushed to my dad’s side and grabbed his arms with her hands.
“Don!” she half said, half cried. “Maya, go get the people!” she said. I didn’t move. Nothing registered. “Maya!” she said louder. Jack and Chloe stood on the other side of him in tears too, hugging each other and shaking. I snapped back to knowing what was happening. Attempting to say okay, I ran around the bushes and started down the path. The tears in my eyes blurred my vision and made their way down my face as I stumbled down the path.
“Wait!” I cried out between escaping sobs,”Wait come back! My dad… My dad fell!” Up ahead the young couple turned around and started walking back towards me. Along with the constant replay of my dad shaking, then falling to the ground, thoughts swirled through my head, each one flashing past my eyes for only a few seconds, then a new one would take over. Some thoughts were hopeful, like He just fainted, and It’s only because of the blood loss from his finger, that happens to me too, while other provoked even scarier conclusions. These consisted of heart attack, and stroke, and these thoughts stayed longer in my mind, haunting me. My dad was always the strong figure in my life. The one person that wouldn’t ever be hurt, only there to help people who are hurt. He would do anything for someone hurt. A few months ago, he even got out of his car on his way home from work, and helped a kid that was hit by a car on his bike. He checked to make sure he was still breathing, called the ambulance to take him to the hospital, and stayed with him until it came. He would sacrifice anything for anyone. But he wasn’t here to help now. Because he was the one who needed help. And I didn’t know how to.
Tears had now soaked through the top of my shirt, and continued their path down my face. I walked back around the bushes to see my dad sitting up, but his hand and head were bleeding. He only fainted. A huge wave of relief spread over me, it was more a tsunami, coming from within, without me knowing. Immediately, the negative notions flew from my mind like people at the start of a marathon, and I felt a weight being lifted off my chest. He was okay. He was okay.
Since my sister and I were still crying, my mom told us to sit down on the rock next to the brush. I took Chloe’s hand and sat her down next to me on the rock.
“Having you guys crying is just making it worse for me,” was her explanation. The embrace of my sister comforted me, and calmed me down. She continued crying after I stopped, and it felt nice to comfort her, to feel like could do something to help someone. To not be so helpless after all.
Later that night, I pulled back the white mosquito netting that surrounded the canopy bed in the loft I was sleeping in and fell back onto the white sheets, closing my eyes to let my brain relax once again. My dad was fine. Everyone was okay. I sat up, pulled the sheets out from under me, and laid them across my legs. The air was hot, but the sheets and pillow felt cool against my skin.
My last day in St. John didn’t turn out like it was supposed to. But that didn’t matter. My dad could resume his position as the strong figure in my life, but now I knew just how much that really mattered. A lone tear fell down my face and onto the pillow. I heard tree frogs chirp from outside, along with the occasional rustle of trees or faint sound of a car driving by, then suddenly, a creak of the steps up to my bedroom. I opened my eyes for a second to see who it was. My dad approached the bed, pulled back the mosquito netting and sat down. He leaned over and kissed my forehead.
“Goodnight sweet pea,” he said softly. I opened my eyes.
“You’re okay, right?” I asked.
“Yeah I am.” The wind blew through the window, ruffling the netting surrounding the canopy bed. Despite the temperature, I shivered.
“I love you.” I said. My dad paused a minute before answering, and got up from my bed.
“I love you too,” he said. I smiled softly. “Goodnight.”