March 10, 2017

A Day of Water

By Michelle Wolf

I wake up every morning and listen to the sound of water hitting the ceramic tub as my husband showers. The water is hot, and it steams the bathroom, fogging the mirror above our double sink. My husband lets the water swirl down the drain. Some mornings he hovers over the left sink basin, shaves the stubble on his chin and cheeks while letting more water swirl down the drain. Water moistens his skin, rinses away the shaving cream, and disappears down the drain. He doesn’t turn off the faucet as he performs this routine. For several minutes, water swirls into the basin and down the drain.

When it’s my turn to use the bathroom, I turn on the shower and let the water run until the temperature is to my liking; not too cold, not too hot. I undress as the water flows down the drain, unused. My favorite part of showering is standing underneath the shower head, closing my eyes and feeling the water cascade over my head, face, and body. I delight in the warmth of the water, completely unaware of how much of it is flowing down the drain. It makes no difference to me that I am wasting water. This water is clean, accessible, and limitless.

Throughout the day, I drink six to eight glasses of water. There are a few different water fountains at work that I use to fill my teal polka-dot plastic cup, so I’m never more than a few minutes from a refill. The straw in the lid allows me to quickly and mindlessly reach my daily water intake.

At the end of the day, I wash my face and teeth before settling into bed. I turn on the right faucet and let the water run until the temperature is to my liking; not too cold, not too hot. The water flows down the drain as I lather soap on my face and soak a towel. The warm water soothes my skin.

My day starts and ends with water, water that is assumed, taken for granted. As I shower, it doesn’t occur to me that for millions, my daily routine is an unfathomable luxury, an experience that they will never have. As I make my third trip to the water fountain at work, I do not think of the women and girls who walk up to 10 hours a day in search of water for their village. It doesn’t occur to me that they may be assaulted on this walk or that the search for water is a full-time job that keeps girls out of school and women from earning income. At night as I brush my teeth and wash my face, I am not thinking of the children in Niger who can’t spare the little water they have for things like bathing.

Despite the fact that water is a near-constant presence in my daily life, it’s the furthest thing from my mind.