A Date With Water
For anybody living on another 'Spectrum'
I have always loved the water. I soak in hot springs. I mud and salt my bare body in murky lakes. I pray in holy rivers. I swim naked in Japanese bath-houses with other naked women. Immersing myself in water is the only time I truly switch off from the world. When I turn the tap labelled H all the way to the right with just a little bit of C, I dunk my head in as the ceramic bowl fills. I feel my hair soak and my ears fill with growling minerals. My nose and face are exposed in the hot damp air, just enough for me to breathe. I close my eyes, and I listen to the waters thunder. If I keep my eyes shut long enough, I envision myself lost at sea, floating away from a sunken ship. The water is not rough, nor cold. I float through the night, staring up at the stars that blanket the sky. I see huge stars, tiny stars, a white full moon with a blank staring face. The sinking ship is far from me now, I have no guarantee of surviving the night. But in this sea, I am completely safe, for if death should come I couldn’t ask for a calmer one. In essence, everything is sweet.
It was ten past six when I got into this bath. It's nothing special, not a claw foot, not a jet spa, it has no bubbles or fancy soaps, not even an organic conditioning treatment. Just a bar of regular soap, the kind you get at the grocery store and a shampoo that makes my hair feel dry. It’s not my favourite bathing experience, but it will have to do. I didn’t have time to buy my usual products. I guess I lost track. . .daydreaming, again.
On the edge of my tub I added a few necessities to make my experience a little more luxurious. Seven roasted dates and my favourite merlot: Jetbird, from Bright Cellars. It’s quite fitting, for as I munch on my dates I am getting ready for a date, hopefully it’s as delicious a date as the ones I consume. The merlot brings out the taste of the dates; I love it’s full bodied texture, with hints of berries, spices and violets. I do this often, pick a food and wine for the occasion; lay it on my bathtub, my favourite part of the ‘getting ready’ phase. Sometimes I have such an exquisite time on my own, in my hot water with a platter of cheese or a favourite Bright Cellars wine, I dream of those stars and that rocking calm mysterious ocean and I completely lose track of time. I forget where I’m supposed to be and the ‘getting ready’ phase never emerges into the ‘ready phase’. I track my life in phases, otherwise I tend to get confused.
I feel ridiculous admitting it, but I missed my sister’s wedding for this indulgent habit of mine, an error she never quite forgave. I had a book in hand, my body was lathered in a seaweed and coconut milk scrub, my hair was in a kelp conditioning mask; the tub was filled with rose petals, Himalayan salts and lavender, I had my favourite Bright Cellars wine, Jetbird, and I drifted into my own world. I tried to tell my sister what an incredible time I was having. She simply did not care for my choices, and asked for the money back for the bridesmaid dress.
Tonight, I have broken this experience carefully into the three phases. 1. Getting ready phase, a.k.a, the bath. 2. Emerge from the waters, and dress to impress. And 3. Ready phase; go to said date-location meet point. I know it sounds ridiculous, but the clouded mind needs a little structure, even if I do revert back to the building blocks of a mild-IQ child.
Presently, I have beautiful Buddhist music playing and every five minutes a voice emerges, an affirmation that speaks words of love to me. It was my psychologist's suggestion to listen to affirmations. ‘You are enough. You are wonderful. You are the epitome of love, with the absolute capacity to give love and be loved in and throughout the world.’ When the voices stop speaking and the sounds of waterfalls and horns continue to play, I repeat those messages back to myself, out loud, with the sea and stars surrounding me. “I am enough. I am wonderful. I am the epitome of love, with the absolute capacity to give love and be loved in and throughout the world." But then I remind myself of my sister’s wedding, and my phase-ridden existence. All my negative thoughts come crashing down, like the water that violently screeches from the faucet; it shatters the serenity.
Both my sisters are married. They were always prettier than me; brighter than me; had better opportunities than me. I have fallen by the wayside. I always was a disappointment, to my father more than anybody. That’s why he set this date up, the one I am ‘getting ready phasing’ for. He says it's time I meet somebody and settle down, being a Jewish girl it’s what we are told must happen. My father thinks I move in and out of different worlds, and he's right. It’s a hard thing, living on the spectrum, or in clinical terms: autistic. I don’t seem to get along with people the way other people do. I find social situations extremely awkward, often unnecessary. Whilst I watch others socialize at weddings and bar mitzvahs, I think of a Turkish bath-house, or the Roman baths in the days of Julius Caesar; I long to dunk my head into an icy waterhole, Wim Hof style, and lose complete sight of the world. The water is where I find my true self, it is where I find my harmony, even God.
6.45pm. My date is at 7.30. I haven’t even shaved my legs. I don’t know how he will feel about my social. . . ineptness. Maybe he will find me dull. Maybe he will find it absolutely bizarre if I do what I did on my last blind date. Another failed attempt by my father's hand, it was a man he knew from the shoe shop, or something to do with broken shoes. I wasn’t very interested in the first place, so that’s really all I know of the guy. I remember he ordered a glass of wine, I had already had my Jetbird, during the ‘getting ready’ phase. I allow myself just one, anymore and I might drift to sleep. I ordered water. When the waiter brought it to me, it was perfect. A highball crystal glass; with bubbles and a wedge of lime carefully stacked on the rim. My date spoke to me about. . .whatever he was saying. . . (shoes?) and all I could do was stare deeply into this sparkling glass, imagining I was a fish, a tiny yellow fish with blue stripes and red fins, swimming in the clearest water in a wintery Canadian stream. I stared at that glass for what seemed like forever. I swirled my middle finger on the top of the surface water, rippling its effect, swirling the bubbles around. I took the lime, squeezing it till five droplets hit the H20 before submerging it completely, and I stared deeply into those bubbles, watching the lime crack them, intrude, disturb, disrupt their calm. I had not spoken much all night, so I piped up: “I am that lime, I disrupt the order of things.” When I returned back to the world outside of that glass, I realized my date was gone. At least he paid the bill. I never saw him again and I never tasted that glass of water. I don’t think I was meant to, for both parts. Connection should not be forced, and perfection should not be touched.
It’s 7.18. One leg is half shaved. I wonder if I can go on this date with one half shaved leg? I suppose he will not notice if I wear stockings. I take another date to my lips, but this time, I find it hard to swallow. I feel my anxiety get at me. It happens at around the time I need to exit phase 1, and move onto phase 2: dress to impress. I feel tonight is more a: dress to digress. Going on this tremendously difficult affair seems both pointless and distressing to me. Is that anxiety talking, or do I really feel this way? I need to hear another affirmation. I turn the faucet back on, Roar at me, water!
I dunk my whole head in, my hair curls around my bare shoulders, I don’t see the stars and sea anymore. Yes, this is full-blown anxiety phase. It’s not a phase I include in my regular phases, but it pops up from time to time. I don’t know if I can move past this water; this warm, comforting water, that cradles me and makes me feel safe. Do I really want to get my stockings on, with my one shaved leg, and if the date goes well and the stockings come off, explain why only one leg is shaved? I don’t know, I just don’t know about this whole thing.
Water is my life, my heart. Growing up, my sisters were better at almost everything, but I could do one thing they could not. I could swim, for miles, without needing to take a breath. I was a mermaid, and they were injured seals, flapping about on the sand. When you are so different in so many other areas in life, you relish the areas you triumph in. And the water was mine. Not only mine, but my mothers too. She died a few years back, and mum and I shared a love for the water. We would swim, just the two of us for hours. Perhaps I haven’t parted with that memory of her. Perhaps she is with me, every bath I take, every ocean I dive. My sisters could have it all: men, money, a big house, it mattered not to me. For I held the water, in all it’s forms. And it is here I love; it is here that my heart is won, it is here that my mother swims beside me.
I suppose that’s why I don’t feel the need to remove myself from this splendid tub. I can simply sip my wine, consume my dates, love myself in this time and place I am in right now, and when I am cleansed I will retrieve, replenished and revitalized, ready for rest. I will sleep soundly and be brighter and spritely for the next day; I will dream of those stars as the oceans overhanging curtain; I will envision myself swimming triumphantly next to my mother, who always told me: I am enough. I am wonderful. I am the epitome of love, with the absolute capacity to give love and be loved in and throughout the world.
I gulp down my wine, I swallow the final date. 7.45pm. I have missed my other date. I wonder how the man will feel. If he asks where I was, I will tell him the truth. I will tell him I lost track of time, a symptom of my horrendous autistic self mixed with the necessity to phase my days, a touch of anxiety and mounting pressure from my father. I will tell him I was doing what I love; what makes me feel peace. I will tell him I am enough, I am happy doing the safest, most simple, beautiful thing imaginable. I was doing water. I simply love the water.
Youth Justice Worker, Teacher. Writing a memoir. From beautiful Australia, with Italian heritage. Much love to you all and to all that send me tips and love for whatever wierd stuff comes out of my head, it is very much appreciated. xx Mel