CARRYING WATER IN BRAVO
by Valeria Teles
Our bedroom is very small, with no door and no lights; we use an improvised kerosene lamp. It’s very hot in the summer and very cold in winter because the roof is made of ancient tiles with lots of gaps.
The nightly ritual before going to bed is always the same. We smash a bunch of mosquitoes trapped in our old net and let some lucky ones escape by lifting it. I stitch over new holes to prevent them from coming in to bite us during the night. Even if they don’t get inside the net, their noise and my sister’s unsolicited hugs keep me from sleeping without interruption. I know she needs me; I could also use a warm hug from my mother to help me fall asleep. Besides the mosquitoes and my sister’s hugs, there’s another challenge to sleeping. Nightmares haunt me. I just hope that they are not as bad tonight, not bad enough to wake me up.
Carried by the Moment
After a rough night struggling to sleep between my sister’s unwanted hugs and the nightmares, the morning brings just enough light to chase the darkness of my fears away. The thoughts of my next chore keep me safe.
It’s early, and chilly. I can hardly see anything on the foggy path leading to the river. But the silence makes me smile with gratitude, to be alone with nature in the light of day. I like seeing the dust lift around every step I make, dragging my worn-out sandals in the soil as I swing my old grey bucket. Walking along the path on my way to the river is such a gift to me. My body is moving somewhere with so much space around; I love this sensation. I hear no human noises besides my own giggling when I suddenly see an animal crossing the road.
Then I reach the river. Nature has become my main source of love, acceptance, and understanding. My true family. It doesn’t hurt me if I get too close, and I don’t have to wish for its acceptance today or tomorrow. Being in the moment with nature gives me all I need; its unconditional love is right here and now.
Before I start filling my bucket with water, I play with it by swiping my hands from side to side. I see lots of small fish – they are close to the edge and not scared of me. I wonder if they are asking for help. Are they trapped like me at home?
The river is drying up. It will soon have no life or love to give to the fish, to us, and it isn’t the mother river’s fault – just like it is not my family’s fault that they don't love me. The river and the fish simply happened; they’ve spent some time together, and they will eventually disappear from each other. This is what nature is and what it does: a sublime, fleeting moment of dance for the partners in a miracle.
But the time is up for this feeling. I need to push the fish and the algae out of the way with my pink, scratched plastic cup, fetching clear water to fill my thirsty grey bucket. Then I place my pre-rolled towel, made into a rounded cushion to fit the bucket, upon my head. I carry the full bucket to the nearest large rock, where I can squat down in a level position and carefully place the bucket on top of the towel on my head. At first, it’s like being pressed down to the ground by the finger of a giant; but as I stand, everything feels normal. It is a workout, no doubt. I learned the technique of water carrying from some old, experienced ladies. It was a lesson they were proud to teach whenever they had a chance, as if they had a degree in water carrying that they hardly ever made use of. They were very excited to be instructors.
Walking back home, balancing the bucket, is fun. It’s a routine that keeps me here and now because all I can think of is not spilling the water. My body and mind become a transport for fresh water. How I love to be just a water carrier, and not the helpless fish in a drying river. I feel good, content. It’s refreshing. It can hear the song my heart sings, the most wonderful melody I ever heard. I don’t know what the lyrics are saying as they keep changing, but the melody is all I need to live this moment with peace, love, and joy.