For the Spring 2014 addition, this Non-fiction essay was accepted:
“I am thirsty”
The water broke. They were racing to the hospital but I wasn’t going to budge. When they reached the hospital, she walked around the wing for hours. And then at once I decided I wanted to join her. Doctors led her to a room and laid her down. Our heartbeats were one, and then they stopped. Just long enough to see a hand reach for her from somewhere far away and then she realized she was no longer living. She drifted away and saw her body lying lifeless below her and she cried out to God – for me. And then we thumped back into that white, linoleum room and I came out full-haired and she smiled and I cried. Because of that sack of water I lived inside for nine months, she held a baby girl and we both felt alive.
We are born from water into bodies that are full of it. We can float on it if we are dense enough, and dive into it if we are brave. We are 75% water and we have three layers of skin and 206 bones. There are 78 organs all together made up of thirteen different major organ groups. There are approximately 60,000 miles of blood vessels in an adult but no ones veins are the same. We have over a thousand strands of hair and then there is the brain which is made up of three parts. And yet we are mostly water. When I think of this I imagine a bathtub not all the way filled up. When I look at you, I will think of a soul, not a container full of bones and organs and moisture.
Salt is a valuable thing. People used to barter with it, because they recognized its value. Salt seems opposite to our need of water, but it’s directly related. In order for us to control our bodies, we depend on electrolytes. Our bodies are the light bulb, and salt is the electricity. Not only do electrolytes trigger our legs to move, but our sense of thirst. This electricity causes us to drink more and more water. And without this need of water, our kidneys would get thirsty and its light would die out and then our bloodstream would lack electricity and we would not light up anymore. When our bloodstream is out of electrolytes then our heart is in trouble and blood pressure goes down. We need water to help our hearts, and it all started with salt.
Salt water makes up 71% of Earth’s surface and we can’t drink it. The ocean provides 97% of Earth’s water and yet 95% of this undersea world has yet to be explored. I want to explore the chunk of earth no one’s ever seen, but I would become thirsty out there. I wonder why most of the ocean can’t be seen and what God’s hiding under there. Even yet, the ocean is why we are alive. It controls the climate and weather patterns and supports nearly 50% of life on Earth and helps sustain that life providing 20% of animal protein. Five percent allows for the total protein in the human diet. It’s massive and unreached and yet it controls our hope for survival.
When I was five, I was a mermaid. Ariel wants to leave the sea, but I wanted to go there forever. I swam until my hands became prunes. I was fascinated with the fact that there could be people who lived in the water just like fish and I became one of them. There’s something about dry land that didn’t seem as appealing as the mystery of the ocean. I wrapped my ankles together and sprouted a fin. There was no one else in the pool and I talked to my fish friends. The pool morphed into the ocean and diving deep was my adventure. We found artifacts such as a used Band-Aid or maybe a lost earring if we were lucky. My mom called me a little fish and told me I needed to get out now. I forgot she was even there. And then my ocean became a cement square and the water did not taste salty anymore. Only moments ago I swear I had seen a whale.
Fish need water to live – all of the time. Humans can only go a few days without water, but they need it all around them, covering them and emerged in it. Once I canoed across a river and it felt like I was floating over the atmosphere. I looked across the darkness and the only thing I saw below me was black. A hundred feet below me were fish bigger than myself and yet I was just sitting there, being transported – unfazed. My only goal was to reach the island in the middle of this lake, while there were fish below me that could swallow me up. If I had seen these fish, I would have had much more trouble crossing. But, I was oblivious and sometimes not knowing is better. There are fish in the Tennessee River larger than 30 feet and others in Tennessee homes smaller than a child’s palm. Goldfish and Betas look at you like they are asking something very important. I always wonder what they are trying to tell me; I wonder what causes them to gape at me with their black hole eyes. They are like humble beggars, wanting only the assurance of survival. When you win a fish from the fair, it is just like a newborn – it only wants to be taken home. Their gills breathe with expectation and float enclosed in a bag; waiting to birth into your fish bowl. They splash inside and warm up to their new home. And then as soon as they open their eyes they realize that they need water now just as much as they did before. Somewhere along the way, humans have lost this sense of need that animals see as so fundamental.
People used to see water as holy. They would travel to rivers just to feel pure. They saw these places as holy because they stood out against the dryness of the land. Maybe we need water so badly because we are thirsty for something greater.
I was standing in line and I didn’t know anyone. It was my first time at this church, but I wanted to transform, too. I can’t even remember the name of the church and I’m not even sure why I went that day but this didn’t matter to me. I tried to remember the last time I did this and if I even knew what I was doing at that time. All I knew was that Jesus wanted me to get in a tub with a strange man while he plugged my nose and dunked me backwards.
As we all stood in a line, they asked us our names and one woman stood with a large pink shirt and reminded us to keep our voices down. She guided us up a flight of stairs that led to a giant mirrored room with blue robes hanging all around. I changed and stepped into another hallway that led to the opening and I heard a microphone voice. The floor was soaked with many people’s footsteps and then before me I saw three older ladies. They held their hands in front of them and their heads up high. Everyone around me was unfamiliar and I was starting to wonder why I was doing this.
I could hear the preacher calling out names that I had never heard before and then I heard mine. I stepped out into the sanctuary and he spoke words that I don’t remember. He looked at me and all I can remember is brown hair and a tiny dot hovering above his mouth connected to a wire. I do remember when he dunked me I knew why I was doing it, and the water around me felt like ice. Not ice that stings your nose in December, but the kind of ice you taste on a hot day after longing for it for hours.
I stepped back out of the water and the ladies before me no longer looked like strangers. I had thumped into a new world, but after the service, I still needed something to drink.