“Don’t think about it all yet, for now just observe, adjust, and drink,” she commands, and I comply.
I drink until the skin is empty, then I refill it from the river. Pure and clean. I’ve never seen water so clean. I do not leave the river, I stay knee-deep in it. Fill, drink, empty. Repeat until my thirst is quenched.
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Before I realize it, the girl is gone. Where did she go? I do not know. She left the wine skin with me. I refill it again. I look around and really see now. I see the river flowing, so clear. I see the banks – so far away, this river is wide. I have never seen a river so wide. The light is shining, and I do not understand why it has been this bright for ages and I have not seen it. Colors are brilliant. Beams of light refracting off the surface, creating prisms and dancing amoebic shapes. I am captivated by the sight.
Captivated not just by the beauty. There is another piece of this vision that arrests my eye – but it’s disturbing. I wonder how I did not see them before? People, lots of them. Standing in the river with me are people – their diversity is commendable. Men and women. Old and young. (Curious though – infants and toddlers don’t exist here.) Thin, some very thin – emaciated, and others grossly obese. With every variation in between. There are those dressed in rags. There are those dressed in suits that appear custom cut for their frames. Tall and short. Long haired and bald. Every race is represented. Latino, Asian, native American, white, black – every skin tone is in the river. It is evident the river does not discriminate; yet, as much as each is an individual, there are a few things that bind these people together.
Each is standing, exactly up to their knees, in the river. Everyone, regardless of their stature, or position in this odd society is in as deep as the next. But the most haunting thing about these souls is this: Each is alone.
As if there were danger or disease to be spread by standing closer – every one, without exception, cannot be reached by another. With outstretched arms they would not come near touching. If they were to somehow stretch prostrate on the water’s surface – stretching their legs and arms to cover as much length as possible – they would not come within even feet of connecting with a peer. Hopelessly alone.
Judging by the glazed expressions, they know they are alone. All with distant stares, looking lost in thought. Or maybe just lost. Their eyes are hollow. Everyone of them share that look, and their lips are the same as well. Everyone of them have dry parched lips. They look thirsty. So thirsty – parched. Dying of thirst. No water in sight. Alone.
Yet, I am both here – with them – and carrying the canteen.