With it, ancient civilizations such as Rome flourished, using it to water fields, animals, people, and tend to the basic sanitation needs of the populace. It is a religious symbol that points to the depths of God, to newness, to life and refreshment for the weary and burdened of heart. All I know is that I really need to pee right now, but I can’t.
When you’re in a water crisis, you watch your stockpiles of water with a thirsty eye. We’ve been in one now for the last 5 days, as the municipality here in Harare, where my mom’s house is, shut the water off as they do every so often. Thankfully, we keep the bathtub and a motley assortment of plastic containers of many shapes, sizes and provenance filled with water for just such a time. My mom has a system that she clearly understands, but my spoiled, just-returned-from-overseas self does not. Over there are the bottles with borehole water. That is for drinking, but only for the adults – the distilled water for the children is in the pantry yonder. Over here is the section with municipal water we take from the tap – that is not safe for drinking, but you can use it for bathing and for the loo. And so on. With the water running from the tap, the system is simpler – the cistern refills itself, so you can flush the toilet without having to fill it using buckets, and the kitchen sink can be filled and emptied as needed directly from the faucet.
Now, though, the water has been shut off, and we’ve started drawing water from the bathtub and the various stashes dotted in and outside the house. Each time I must wash my hands, vegetables and fruit, my body or my clothes, the fact of the dropping water level in the bathtub and the fast-emptying water containers hits me like a personal affront. A visit to the loo is never relaxed now, and till then you hold it in for as long as possible until it’s necessary because you know that it’s going to deprive everyone else of a few more precious litres of water. If you know me, you know that I’m one of those people that take their time and let nature take its course while I dig into one of the many books I am reading at any one time. For the past few days, the loo has stopped being my happy place. The nastiness of it all, which many have to endure on a daily basis, came home to me by force.
When it comes down to it, though water has a lofty symbolism and we can wax lyrical about it, it allows us to simply live as the embodied creatures that we are. We drink because we thirst. We bathe because we get dirty and produce dirt that needs to be removed to stave off disease. And every so often our bodily waste just needs a place to go. Running water allows us to do the little, but necessary, things of life as embodied souls/ensouled bodies. I for one, just really need to pee right now.