Listen to its song haunting your dreams: water. Water flowing. Soothing your tired muscles, cooling your brow stained with sweat and sand. Fresh and clean tasting. Not like the tepid brew you have in your flask, laced with chemicals to insure no harm will come to you.
Already on day one of that desert trek you started to fantasize about clean cool water — a shower, a drink, a pool — and now, well into day nine, memory of the clear fluid haunts your burning — and thickened — bloodstream like a sluggish nightmare.
Never again will you waste it. Every time its sweet taste flows into your mouth you will feel life and peace flow through your veins. As when you were a student, and meals were few and far between, every morsel was a feast. Have you forgotten the taste of freshly baked bread? The aroma that did away with far more than hunger; frustration and stress were soothed away with just a few bites.
Bread. Life. Water.
No soda, no wine, no alcohol would ever satisfy you more right now. Mint tea is fine. Mint tea is great, in fact; it does away with the most urgent thirst and its sugar will just keep you from collapsing after the day’s trek. But water…
You are tracing its path on the stones along the road, trying to decipher the message its salts have left on the surface to tease you. Ghosts of water that was. Worse than a mirage because you know that this is not an illusion; water was here. Here where you stand now. Here where you need it now.
Where it isn’t anymore.
There was this old building I used to haunt as a child and that would haunt me right back, some type of technical construction, with all sorts of strange rooms to explore and to play hide and seek in and out of. I remember its stained walls, peeled papers, the grimy windows showing shards of teeth to marauders. There was even a strange hopscotch-like drawing painted on the floor in one of the corridors, which I never failed to storm through on my way from the offices to the workshops.
Sometimes I would lick its old and massive cast iron heaters for a taste and a fleeting impression of gone-by days, trying to picture the persons that would have spend their working time in the place, their dreams, assumptions and delusions still tainting the walls.
I would lose myself in musings, trying to fathom why they would have drawn a child’s game on the floor, and while I imagined alternative uses for the diagram, some enticingly sinister, the flavour of metal in my mouth became that of blood. Was this red stain just flaking paint on the rusty tubes or a sign left by some gruesome rite of passage? Would the dirt and rot on the wall speak a different tale than that of an obvious abandon, forgotten tears being spilt in vain? Such contemplations occupied many a rainy day I spent in this edifice.
Another favourite pastime of mine was also to sit on the dusty floors for hours, allowing myself to get mesmerised by the walls dappled with mildew, broken windows and decayed paint and imagining the building trying to shake its pretense of civilisation to return to a primal stage, a tree creature that, once freed of veneer, would take roots in the place and start sprouting greens and weird typewriter-shaped fruits. Or a brick truant ghost that would un-moor its foundations and take to marauding in the woods, a rampaging being that would take me along as a stowed-away passenger. I would pray for it to let me get under its skin and to cart me off towards genuine adventures, offering to strip away layers of coating to speed its way to recovery, planning all sorts of mischief for our escapade, that I would then whisper into the walls, splinters of paint embedding themselves in my lips.