It’s always been hard to do drugs in a public setting, but add in some plane turbulence and it’s an entirely different animal.
The needle shook going into my skin and jabbed me a few times before sinking in properly. It stung more than usual but after a year of doing this multiple times a day I was starting to get used to it. Diabetes was not a fun disease to deal with. There was no fix, just a constant struggle of battling blood sugar numbers and needle bruises.
No one noticed my shot, thankfully, and I was even able to discretely clean up the bits of blood that dotted my stomach along the waistline of my pants. It wasn’t unusual to get weird looks from strangers who didn’t quite understand what I was doing and often mistook it for something else. It was always a relief to get away without those glances, and for some reason I had a habit of looking for them. They seemed to be drawn to the young woman sticking a needle in her side, but I couldn’t blame them. If I didn’t know what it was I would probably do the same thing. The person next to me certainly didn’t notice as he, like most of the passengers it seemed, was asleep.
The next bout of turbulence woke him quickly and I saw the concern cross his face. This was something I was hoping not to see of course, because it solidified my own fears of despite the lack of communications from our pilot to tell us one way or another. We hadn’t even seen a flight attendant in the past half hour, when the turbulence had started little by little.
I moved as much as I could away from the man next to me who was starting to get antsy, though it was a challenge. His sweaty arm on the armrest was a little too close for comfort and I really enjoyed personal space. I tried my best to ignore it. I reached down to grab my bag and rummaged for a minute before finding my headphones which were surprisingly untangled.
The plane jolted again, this time a little more harshly, and I smashed my head on the seat in front of me. I rubbed my head and mumbled to myself, I was a magnet to injury.
“What’s goin’ on?” The man next to me asked, getting more antsy by the second and ignoring my grunts of pain.
“I’m not sure,” I mumbled and pushed the headphones in my ear before putting the other end in the port of my cell phone. Some music ought to help, I thought. But no matter what I could have tried, I couldn’t ignore the conversation starting around me.
Others were starting to look around. The confusion and turbulence were getting worse, you know that fast but slow action, until the masks came down from the ceiling and the panic really started.
Finally, the pilot came over the speakers but no one could make out the words through the conversations and ominous noises from the engines of the plane. My stomach rose to my throat and I could see on the other passengers’ faces the same revelation kicking in. No more groggy curiosity, we were panicked, though some showed it more than others.
The plane was going down, no doubt about it. The problem was we were nowhere near our destination and I couldn’t see land outside my window. I could only hope that the other side showed a more promising view.
Before I knew it, we hit.
There was water everywhere, inside and out. Only a second later I realized that the front half of the plane wasn’t there. The back part of the plane started to flood much more quickly than I expected. I was towards the break in the plane and managed to unbuckle myself and shove off from the seat into the open water. I got more than I bargained for as water broke through my lips and down my throat. I could feel the burning in my chest and when I finally settled on the surface my lungs released everything they took in. Twelve years of swim team instinct kicked in and I propelled myself forward, away from the sounds of destruction and towards the only other thing I could see – a beach.
The waves brought me right in, along with parts of the plane. I let it take me and made my way onto the sand. Immediately, I stripped off the unnecessary baggage, l took a deep breathe, and headed back for the water with a few others who were able to make their way with me. We made the decision to go back together for others without a second thought or a word spoken.
There was debris everywhere in the water, but we made it through, grabbing on to anyone we could help make it to land.
After what seemed like miles of swimming back and forth to the island, I was sure we helped everyone we could, though it probably wasn’t everyone, I thought with a frown. For the last time that day, I crawled back onto the beach on all fours and passed out.
I woke up on my back, the sun blaring in my eyes as the recent memories came back. It felt like a dream, but the ocean in front of me confirmed the reality. I didn’t know how long I was out, but my body hurt and I could see that my uncovered Irish arms had started to redden. I pushed myself up with screaming muscles and looked along the beach.
It was a long stretch, but there were people all along the sand. It was chaotic. Some were crying, others were hugging, and more than I wanted to admit were not moving. Plane debris and some suitcases had started to wash up on shore.
Nearby I spotted a man leaning over a few injured people, he seemed to be taking care them. Maybe he was a doctor or a nurse, I wasn’t sure. His beachy clothes were ripped and tattered, perhaps on purpose to use as bandages. Regardless he looked like he could use a hand.
“What can I do?” I asked as I walked up to the group. The man’s blue eyes were covered by his hair, but I could still see the shadows beneath them.
The “doctor” greeted me with a sad smile. “What we need right now is some supplies. Some of these people are bad. Please go look for something, anything, that could help,” He said and turned back to the woman whose leg he was wrapping in a piece of clothing.
I nodded to myself and turned back towards the shore. There must be some supplies that drifted in that could help, I thought. There was a cluster of bags ready to be searched rolling up on shore every few minutes.
Insulin, I thought, pausing for a moment, Shit. I’ll have to find something for myself too. With the diabetes I would need some insulin and a blood sugar meter to stay on top of things, since it was always changing. How on earth was I going to survive on an island? Even just a day could be a disaster for me, I relied on medicine constantly. They definitely didn’t manufacture that on the island, all I could see was beach and trees. I have a good handle on my diabetes, I thought, mildly confident. But I’m not sure I could manage it without anything.
I spent the rest of morning rummaging through suitcases looking for medical supplies and sorting out everything. It would have been careless to toss anything, in the situation everything could be useful. Who knew how long we would even be there? A few others were doing the same, whether it was for the good of everyone or just themselves I wasn’t sure. I only hoped it was the first one, but in this day and age I have found it can be hard to trust people sometimes to do the right thing.
A few hours and quite a few bags later, I was exhausted. I dropped all my findings in one area by the Doctor who quickly thanked me and went back to his business. I wasn’t quite sure how he was still going, it was impressive.
It was time for a break, so I went down by the water to sit. The sand was warm from the sun during the day. The sun itself was starting to dip in the sky, but its warmth remained and I was grateful for it.
What I was not grateful for was my own thoughts. Sure, I found plenty of useful items and I myself had been useful, but I hadn’t found what I needed. There were no diabetic supplies anywhere and I didn’t even have anyone to talk to about it. If my dad had been there, he would’ve known what to do, he was a diabetic too with much more experience. I only had a year under my belt, he taught me everything I knew and I was still learning. And if my mom were there, I would have had some comfort in it all. Or would I be the one comforting her? It was hard to say. Regardless, it would’ve been nice to have someone. They were far away. They were waiting for me to arrive home from my trip.
My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of laughter. I looked around to see a group of kids about my age over on another part of the beach nearby. I tried to turn away before they saw me watching but I was too slow. They noticed me staring and waved me over.
I wasn’t much in the mood given the situation, but I got up with a groan and walked over. I wasn’t really sure it was a good idea, but they had been laughing and that was a good thing. I needed a reason to stay out of my head.
“Hey! Want to play Frisbee? We found one in some luggage.” Yelled a short blond boy. He, and the other players, were probably about my age of 19. I recognized him as one of the others who was gathering supplies.
“Alright,” I said with a small smile, “Although, I can’t promise I am any good.” I said and the boy pointed to join the opposing team. There were about 5 people on each team, each visibly warn out from the day, some injured, but all looking for a distraction.
The game was fast paced and made me forget the ache in my body and in my mind. But after a while, I began to feel…different. I was hot and a little confused. Was it the sun? No, I realized. It was my blood sugar dropping. I stopped running immediately and bent over, trying to think of where to get something. I needed sugar, fast. Low blood sugar made it hard to think. And stand, for that matter.
One of the guys came over as the others started to slow the game. “Are you okay?” he asked, putting an arm around me to help me stand up straight.
“Yea, I just… low blood sugar. Diabetes,” the words game out slowly and slurred, “I need sugar.” I was disoriented and could only hope that I made sense. It came on too fast, I was never prepared.
The guy picked up the cue and set me down in the sand. I watched him run to the closest pile of supplies with food, returning swiftly with a few candy bars that had been scrounged up. I was sitting in the sand trying to hold myself together and greedily took the candy when he returned.
“Are you going to be alright?” The guy asked and he sat down beside me. He ran his hand through his hair, the black slick with sweat from running.
“Yes, I just, need a few minutes. Thank you for this, I’m lucky it was there. I’m sorry,” I apologized through my mouth full of candy. I couldn’t believe this happened already, and it wouldn’t be the first time I would need someone to come to my rescue. Another reminder that it sucked to be alone.
“No, please don’t apologize. I just want to make sure you are okay. Take your time. We can start slow,” he said, “My name is Gene, short for Eugene.”
“Melanie,” I replied with a subtle smile. I tucked a piece of my sea salted blond hair behind my ear with heavy arms. My hands were still shaking and my brain still fuzzy, but all I could think was that it was nice to not be alone. “It’s nice to meet you. Again, I’m sorry.”
“No problem, It’s nice to meet you too. You say sorry too much, though. How about we call it a day and try and get you some real food.” He nodded towards the other frisbee players who had stopped playing anyway. “I saw some other things over there and I can make a mean campfire. What do you say?” Gene asked with a big smile.
“Alright.” I was starting to get my bearings. My legs weren’t eager to push up and Gene helped with the slack. The good thing was I was feeling normal again, just drained. “I do have to warn you though, I can’t just hang around.”
“Why?” Gene asked curiously. “You don’t like me?”
I rolled my eyes and let a smile escape. “Well, I need to go for a walk or something.” I paused and we started to walk towards the supplies, where others had started to gather. It seemed the others had started to make sense of it in the past few hours too. “I know you discovered I am diabetic but the slight problem is anytime I eat I need to do a shot of insulin. To bring my sugars down to a normal level. Since I don’t have any, I need to be active, to bring it down naturally…but at the same time try and avoid the episode you just witnessed.” I said to the sand, which had grown considerably cooler over the past hour.
“Well, I could join you.” Gene replied, “I don’t really know anyone, I was on the plane alone and could use a friend. And besides, I like long walks on the beach…tonight, tomorrow, however long it takes.” He smirked and his golden eyes lit up from the last bit of sunlight.