Monday, January 20, 2014

Flaming Lips

Nobody is drinking the water. A week and a half in and we're all avoiding the water, staring at it, talking about it; discussing whether it's safe enough to wash our cars with, our homes, our children...

The water was cleared at my place Friday morning and I bled the lines in my house and took the first real shower I'd had in five days an hour after. The shower before had been at the Catholic church on the other side of the county. I'd met a family of hipster/hippies who'd named their children Christian and Damian and a man missing half an ear, who thought everyone took to long.

I've showered every day since, washed my hair, washed my hands, but I won't cook with the water. I won't drink it. I won't even venture a sip to rinse my mouth out and then spit it in a sink.

Nobody believes in the water. The water company doesn't even believe in it. If they did, they'd be trying to convince us all that it's safe.

They're not.

They're waiting for us to convince ourselves and slowly, I think, we're doing that.

At lunch the other day, a group of us ate at a Mexican place. We ordered our drinks, like always.

"We have no tea," the waiter said after I asked and then he rattled off a list of sodas. We chose based on our tastes.

Someone asked, "Do you think they're using tap water for the fountain drinks?"

We all paused then someone else said, "No. I used to work in a restaurant and we used these great big tanks for carbonation." He held up a cup. "A cup like this --16 or 20 ounces --it cost us five cents."

We considered what he said, nodded and then let the subject drop.

Of course, the fountain drinks use tap water. The big tanks only add the bubbles --not that the Mexican restaurant was serving fountain drinks. The sodas were poured out from two-liter bottles, probably purchased down the road at the nearby grocery.

If the restaurant had been comfortable with the water, they might have brewed tea, but they didn't. They didn't trust it either, not to drink.

Still, just as likely, the ice was made from the tainted water, the glasses had been washed in the tainted water.

I don't know what made him answer the way he did.

Before dark, I took wet clothes to the laundromat to dry them. The place was packed with haggard middle-aged women and weary-looking men, some with blue, jailhouse tattoos. Together, as a community of the less privileged (the better off have on-site laundry), we did the wash and watched over enough small children to fill a preschool classroom.

The children, black and white and belonging to half a dozen scattered parents, chased one another around and between the rows of brushed steel washing machines. My headphones snugly jammed into my ears, I listened to the Flaming Lips and smiled at them as they dodged past me.

They waved and grinned and laughed; their grubby, little faces turning pink from the endless chase. I tried to match the brothers and sisters up by their faces, but instead noticed how many of them were wearing skulls on their shirts or skulls on their dirty pajama bottoms.

It seemed like some kind of omen. 

No comments: