I met a Mara named Die, and not one of our visible lifelines intersected. But more than a few invisible ones did. He was my friend.
We drifted down the bilharzia filled Tana to the Indian Ocean as the tide was falling too low to turn when the call came to circle back again. The banks were too high and the water too low, so the hull scraped the bottom and threw our 40 foot steamer on it’s side. I thought I saw nature all around me just watching the horrible accident unfold… crocodiles, hippos, monkeys. But, they were all just animals.
I ran up the boat as it rotated, until it flipped completely upside down and I found myself standing on it’s bottom, right next to the hull that was pointing up to the sky. I heard a panicked scream and saw Die holding on to the tip of the slippery painted rudder that was barely jutting out from the back of the boat.
He couldn’t swim.
I jumped in.
When I arrived at his side he viciously clawed at me and pulled me under to try and keep his nose and mouth from pulling water. Under I went. I held my breath until I freed myself. I came up behind him. I wrenched the collar of his 1917 Belgian Army jacket tightly around his neck and propelled him to the partially exposed railing of the flipped steamer. He hugged that railing with both arms like a mother hugs a child returning from war.
He hugged himself.
In that moment of truth he would have traded me for that hug. There’s nothing he wouldn’t have exchanged to save his life, including my own.
Nature. That was his, and it had been watching the whole time.