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memory of water

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There used to run a river here, they say. The smoothed stones you see, half-buried in dust drifts—the river made those. Run enough water over something, even stone, and it wears away. Can you believe it? It took more water than you’ve ever seen, more than’d run through your spigot in a year, even supposing you broke the meter somehow. It took more than they keep in the vast underground tanks—the aquifer, they call it, though that’s a lie. Or it’s poetry, maybe. Or marketing.

Careful, don’t slip. Tricky, aren’t they? Put your weight wrong and twist an ankle. Nobody walked up the river bed when the river was running high; the current would’ve knocked them over, towed them under.

You don’t believe me. Well, that’s your business.

Nobody came walking up it later, once it slowed; it was just mud then, flowing sluggish between ten-foot fences. Can you taste the silt on your tongue? There was hardly water to steal anyway, even for the thirsty, and by then that was all of us.

Do you know what it’s like, dying for lack of water? That desert feeling to your skin, your eyes gritting up, blinding you? I bet you do. Most everyone now has near-died of it a time or two. I did.

Nobody walks up the river now, either, though the fences have mostly fallen. Is it eerie, the wind blowing down the valley? Maybe you don’t notice, too busy imagining water running between your toes, wetting cracked lips. Maybe you feel it filling up your belly, then your lungs, overrunning its banks. Maybe you’re choking on it.

My banks were overrun too, once, and a person dies of surfeit as well as lack. Can you believe it? Not many remember drowning anymore, but you will.