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The Riptide

Some years ago in San Diego a strong riptide took a group of us far from the shore, & my husband was part of that group—strangers the rest. Our increasing distance was innocent at first, but then it began to dawn on us that the salty waves were rocking us onwards with the promise of an abyss, & my husband floated beside me on his back, preserving his breath or releasing his fear, I couldn’t tell which. Being an excellent swimmer, I was the last to sense the abyss & understood only when a young woman in a yellow swimsuit started to panic & cry & swallow water because the waves kept slapping her face & her strength kept failing. I had enough left in me to fight the riptide & make it back to the beach, but of course I stayed, & as I swam between my husband & the crying girl & helped them float on their backs, I thought, with annoyance, that my voice sounded high-pitched & undignified. Then—lifeguards on their eager boards (I almost said “horses”).

As I tell this story I feel embarrassed, because I know you can sense my conceit & my dishonesty, stabbing myself, but brushing you only indirectly. “Remember how you rescued us?” my husband says to me sometimes. Even then I burn with embarrassment—especially then.


Svetlana Beggs is a Seattle-based poet and writer hailing from St. Petersburg, Russia. Her poems can be found in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Fogged Clarity, Pleiades, and Columbia Poetry Review, and her fiction has appeared in Cleaver Magazine and Bartleby Snopes.