Clear. Like an entire glass of it, utterly still. There were no ripples. It was odd. There wasn’t much of it, either. A rose would wither, sitting in there. Not enough to sustain life.
Should I drink it? Should I? Would I risk certain illness, possibly death? But if I didn’t, my wife would kill me. Probably. What is she thinking?
I looked at her out of the corner of my eye. She is looking at the cross hanging above the minister. Her eyes are shut and her lips are barely moving. Her tiny plastic glass is empty. Her fingers are pinched around it. Should I? Should I? Should I just pour it out and pretend I drank it?
This church was strange and told its members that Jesus only drank water. They refused to serve wine for communion. I was allergic to water. It made me drunk.
I never slept, ever, because I drank coffee instead of water. I never needed sleep. I needed the bathroom a lot, though.
I am an expert in figuring out what irritates my wife the most, from shortsheeting the bed to replacing her toothpaste with toothstainer. But me getting drunk on water was something that irritated her the most—and I didn’t even mean to irritate her.
What if it were all a conspiracy? The church is trying to kill me, that I figured out. They say it blatantly. Death to self; life in Christ. I never understood that. I stared the glass of blue down and imagined drinking it. It would be horrible.
It would immediately burn like acid, right? Down the throat and into the stomach. Burning its way through my systems. No, I’m not paranoid. It would slowly kill me. My stomach acids wouldn’t bear up, and they’d collapse, or explode. Either way, kill me. Or make me do something humiliating, like shout to the world that I loved pink teddy bears and owned thirty of them.
I looked up at the cross. It was hanging crookedly. It was distracting. I wondered how on earth no one else was bothered by it. The minister was holding up the little cracker thing now and saying something. I ate that. It made my mouth dry but at least didn’t kill me sourly.
The clear box full of water was open. That meant someone was going to get dunked today. Sorry, that was irreverent. But true, a little. I tipped my head back and looked at the lights high above me. They seemed to look down judgmentally.
I stared at my little glass. I looked at the baptism box. I imagined the minister pulling the person down into the water. I imagined the box breaking. What if the person was too fat and shattered the box? I swallowed a laugh.
I thought of the water streaming out onto the congregation. It would trickle down and ruin the floor and the hats of the ladies and the socks of the men. I thought of me, half-drunk with the water, the poisoned water that made me punch-drunk, standing up and shouting something embarrassing. My wife would flush and run outside weeping. My stomach churned.
Waiting for my doom to come I thought of several things that might irritate her. It’s what I do in my spare time. One, turn all the cans in the pantry upside down. Two, buy a calendar for 2020 and replace our 2019 calendar with it. Three—Aagh! The water got too close to my nose and I smelled the fumes rising. I got lightheaded.
She looked at me and glared. I was taking too long. I pretended to be praying, to buy time. This water could ruin my life if I wasn’t careful. Why should I ruin hers as well? I was saving her life by not drinking this water!
I imagined the box breaking again. It seemed to give me comfort. I remembered the only other time I’d gotten near-drunk on water. I’d proposed to my girlfriend (instead of breaking up with her as I’d planned) and now here I was with her, stuck in a church I didn’t agree with. Water will ruin a man’s life for sure.
The lights in this church were too bright. I needed a shower. I was just distracting myself from having to drink. I wanted to think about anything else.
“Drink it!” my wife hissed. I groaned internally. Do you really want me to drink it, Janet? Are you sure?
The minister was still talking. I think he is praying. He never stops talking. He gains momentum as he goes along and we get out of church about three in the afternoon, all starving and needing the toilet.
The water streamed out of the box in a third replay. The water in my tiny glass looked at me and called me a coward. What should I do? It could be an adventure, that’s for sure. Maybe I’d get so dazy that I’d leave my wife! The last time I drank water, I married her. This time, I could get out.
I swirled the water around in the glass and shifted in the pew. For the fourth time I wished that I’d thought to bring a cushion. I swore that my bum got flatter after each Sunday.
I caught the eye of the little girl in the pew ahead of me. She was standing up, facing me, and singing softly to the communion-music. She stuck out her tongue at me. I smiled at her. She smiled back. She was missing two teeth.
I was putting it off. Come on. I can do this. I raised the glass and put it to my lips. I kept my lips closed.
My wife pinched me. I mouthed, “What?” and she gave me a tiger’s glare.
Ho boy. Here goes. I shook out my shoulders and sent up a prayer. I closed my eyes. Then I thought better of it. I lowered my glass and suffered the following glare.
They passed the collection plate to the pew in front of us and there was a minor crisis as the little snaggle-toothed girl turned it upside down, laughing wickedly.
I grinned at her. She’d saved me, for a moment. And then she gave me an idea.
I snuck a look at my wife. She was not looking at me. I looked at the water. The surface was smooth and shimmery. I imagined a little ship making across the water, and a little miniature Peter trying to walk on the surface and failing. My wife always said my imagination was overactive.
Reciting the alphabet backwards so that I would remember in what order to organize the fried contents, I reached out for the collection plate, to my left.
As my wife passed me the collection plate I poured the entire contents of my little plastic glass into it, and passed it to the man sitting on my right.