Water

Valley water was crappy, filled with tannins and iron; it stank bright orange. And Village water was so heavily chlorinated that it tasted like laundry detergent. That’s why Jane went into the bush twice a month to get fresh water. There was a natural spring there, just off the forestry road beside the Syon River. A rutted hundred metre spur took you there.

Jane would fill two 18.9-litre water bottles on every visit. A refill from the gas station was $10 including tax, so she was saving $40 a month, almost $500 a year. Not bad. She also filled some 4-litre milk jugs for convenience.

She was usually alone during her ten-minute turn around. This was good, as she wasn’t entirely sure if this was Crown Land or private land. The occasional entrance of another vehicle created a logistical issue – she couldn’t back out – but these situations were resolved with her water brothers and sisters in a friendly manner. They would assist each other filling up, and then back out together through bushes.

One day Jane found a naked, dreadlocked hobo floating in the spring. Her immediate reaction was shock – was he dead? This changed to fear – would he attack her? Then anger – he was polluting the spring! Then helpless laughter – what on earth was he doing?

Her laughter took a while to reach him, as he was muttering to himself. When he sensed it through the ripples, he blinked his eyes rapidly, covered his genitals with both hands, lost his balance, and sank promptly. His arms and dreadlocks flailed around. The water was chest-high and he settled in the gravel. He sat there with his mouth open, looking fishy.

“Excuse me,” said Jane, suppressing giggles, “I didn’t know you were there.”

“Oh, I was,” he said, looking into the ripples, rather than at her. “Just topping up my seventy percent.” Then he smiled up at her. “They must have taught you at school that the human body is seventy percent water? And that seventy percent of the earth’s surface is covered by water? And that seventy percent of fresh water usage is for agriculture? And that the search for life in space is seventy percent about locating water?”

Jane nodded along, not sure if she was agreeing with or humouring him. She said, “Yesss…”

“Do you know the expression, ‘As above, so below’?”

“I recall it from science class, or was it religion?”

“They’re much the same. It’s a reminder that everything on earth is yoked to the heavens. The moon affects the tides. The sun makes rain. Other planets and stars have subtle gravitational effects. And thus we accomplish the miracles of the One thing.”

Jane was about to say that the “one thing” people used this spring for was drinking water, so would he please get out. But it somehow seemed right that he was there. He was so unexpected that context was impossible. She learned his name was Michel, said goodbye and left.

The next time she came, Michel was floating upside down. This time he’s dead for sure, she thought; he’s taken “As above, so below” too far. But then she heard a sort of gargling, and saw bubbles emerging. He turned around, saw her, waved, lost his balance, and sank. When she asked what he had been doing, he said, “Wu wei. Doing without doing.”

Next month she couldn’t get into the spur road. There was a sign saying, “Do not drink,” and tape saying, “Do not cross”. The Health Police had poked their nose in. She parked her truck and walked in with the 4-litre bottles. When she mentioned the new signage to Michel, he promptly destroyed the sign and tore off the tape. “A just war,” he said.

One day he was coughing. “Just getting used to the water again,” he said.

“But you’ve been in water every time I’ve come,” said Jane.

“Yes, but it’s going to take a while to adjust again.”

“How so?” said Jane, filling her 18.9-litre bottle.

“It took us billions of years to leave the oceans, so it may take a while to get back.” Who were we, Jane wondered – bacteria? algae? – and why would we want to “go back”? Something broke the surface. It was a large red carp. Michel stroked its head, and the fish submerged. “Just getting reacquainted,” he said.

The next time she saw him, Jane gasped and dropped her bottles. They rolled into ruts. She ran to Michel who was sitting beside the spring, tending wounds. “What happened to you?” she said.

“Not everyone feels the same as you do about me being here, Jane. I guess it’s time to move on.”

“What!” she shouted. “Someone did this to you?” Tears started down her cheeks, racing to the spring.

“Yes, but don’t worry. They’re superficial wounds.” He refused to be taken to the medical centre, or to the cops. He said, “It is other people’s water too.” She tried to talk him into coming to her house, at least for a hot meal. He thanked her for her kind offer, but said he was fine.

The next time Jane went to the spring, Michel wasn’t there. She ran back down the spur road towards the river. Far away she saw him – she thought – waving at her, losing his balance, and sinking. She could only smile.

Jane was happy that Michel had blessed the spring with his presence. She knew that pure water was tasteless, colourless, and odourless; but his muttering and strange behaviour had affected the spring somehow. She had heard about the Japanese Professor who said that human consciousness affected water’s molecular structure. Had its negatively and positively charged particles been reconfigured, and its attractive and repulsive forces rebalanced, by a quiet reverse baptism? Water is called the universal solvent for a reason. Whenever Jane took a sip of spring water after that, she felt peace, joy, and love, and all her worries disappear.

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One Response to “Water”

  1. I like this one

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