They’ve been turning the water off for several days now. Every evening, and every afternoon. From 8pm until 4am. From 12.30pm-3.30pm. They turn it off.
They turn it off just as they’ve turned off the internet, turned off the TVs. The loading signal on my phone, on my web browser spins and spins in a constant circle at every attempt to check my email, view a photo, send a message. Like the error message on the TV “sorry, it looks like this channel is not included in your subscription, please contact your subscriber.”
I rush to brush my teeth and wash my face at 5 minutes before 8pm. My stomach churns after eating too much garlic, too much onion, too many fibrous vegetables, and I wonder whether tonight is the night where not having a toilet could be semi-disastrous. Where my mess will have to sit there stagnating for hours, barely concealed beneath a pile of paper, until finally I’m able to dispose of it in the morning, water gulping through the pipes like an asthma sufferer.
Throughout the day I fill the kettle constantly, obsessively clicking it on to boil whether I want a cup of tea or not. The weekend afternoons, usually filled with cooking and meal prep, are slower than usual; cooking requiring a minimum amount of water for handwashing, for rinsing spoons and mixing bowls even if water itself is not a specific ingredient. The dishwasher is full once again after we forgot to turn it on last night and will have to wait a few more hours before it can do its customary cycle.
In the night I get up to pee, the house disturbingly quiet other than the ever-present rattle of the air-con. Still asleep, I squirt a glob of soap into my palm and open the bathroom tap only to be greeted by a strangled shush of air. Cursing, cupping my hand I stomp to the adjacent bathroom and gingerly open the tap with my elbow. There is, mercifully, a trickle, and I quickly rinse the gunk from my hands before the pipe runs totally dry.
The plastic water bottle beside our bed is almost empty, crumpled to the point of being unable to stand upright. I open the cap and take a swig of the lukewarm remains. Though the tap water is still drinkable, to ease the pressure on reserves they have supplied us with bottled water, crystallized sediment settling at the bottom.
In the early morning, the pipes rumble and groan with the first flush of the toilet. Outside, the thunder too rumbles and groans as storm clouds thicken. We turn on the TV while still in bed and let Sky news, with its footage of Ukraine and lack of error message, wash over us.
The kitchen taps sputters hot water and cold, wetting my t-shirt, my ankles, the floor. I fill the kettle again and click it on to boil once more. At this time of the day, before the rest of the office is online, the internet is strong enough to load my emails, and I spend 30 minutes replying to messages, reacting to photos. The connection is still clunky, and it stops several times, probably not helped by the ongoing storm.
Outside, the rain is coming down hard, copious volumes of water drench the grass, the pavement; flood through the patio.
I finish my tea, strip off my pyjamas and climb into the shower, the mercifully hot water throbbing against my back.