Water is Thicker Than Blood
I don’t know if you would like this coast. The way you’d clung to the Gulf was a reciprocal codependency—the humidity of a place I can only call “back down there” these days—always clinging in return. It’s different here, humid as well but, softer and gentler in a way that makes my hair curl tight and coiling at the nape of my neck and temples, reminds me of toddlerhood; in a way that keeps my skin soft, prompts people to always say “you’re glowing,” and then “are you pregnant yet?” I am not pregnant yet, though I imagine you would be. You and your perfect body, the way you never knew a pair of ovaries that could betray your deepest wish and longing, the way you could still fit into your middle-school P.E. shorts up until the very end without a curve ever out of place.
Thirty creeps around every corner and the last five years have felt like living in hiding, hiding from the inevitability of age and also of forgetting, I don’t know which scares me more these days. You told me once that age is just a number and that people like us have experienced a depth of emotion some people don’t find until much later, often too late, in their lives. You said we were lucky for our burdens, our memories, the weight of it all on our backs.
I try to believe you in the night with Albin’s back to me as he hums in sync with the radiator, remembering the mornings I would walk downstairs after a party, find you two intertwined like ancient vines—limbs nearly indiscernible in the hazy hungover mornings—on the beer and piss stained futon, the way I had not yet known either of you apart from the other, couldn’t imagine it. I try to believe you in the mornings too, in the solo uphill walks on my lunch break, on the train ride home after punching out of the office. I still don’t know if I believe you.
Washington is so unlike, yet so similar to Louisiana. It feels like irony some days that I escaped there and came here, other days like divinity. They both carry with them a density, but the air carries different troubles. In Louisiana, you can feel generations and generations of hunkering down for a storm, feel hundreds of years of death in a strong gust. In Washington, everything and everyone is new—a generation or two at most—except for those who aren’t, and the difference between the two is stark. The divide, the fight for the right to call these mountains
home, wafts in every sea breeze through every cracked upstairs window and settles into the
sheets and the carpet and the curtains and people wonder why they can never sleep at night. They both are thick and wet, but here I think I can finally feel the salt in the air cleansing something that I believed would leave me filthy, gunked up, forever.
Both Metairie and Queen Anne traffic in seafood. I’ve lost an appetite for mud bugs, replaced my penchant for bottom feeders with oysters by the dozen. You would love the fish, the whole fish in the market downtown with their eyes still intact. Staring blankly, they look like the beads of the friendship bracelets we made facetiously over the first Spring Break we spent together, but wore earnestly for the next two years. I left mine on your grave when Albin and I, your parents, and siblings stayed after the crowds and the preacher left. I went back months later, after a large not-quite-hurricane storm had passed through. It was gone, which felt fitting.
You would love the sushi that slides by the table on a conveyor belt, an excuse to try one of everything just like you did at every department potluck, in the campus cafeteria when we worked in the counselor's office that one summer, at Thanksgivings with Albin’s family; the way you were so dedicated to fitting so many experiences in your mouth in one sitting.
Sometimes I miss the flatness of the Gulf, the way you can look out and see the beginning and the end of the swamp, how you always know there’s land on the other side firm enough to hold you. Sometimes I feel safer here in the mountains, hidden from view.
Here, I trek uphill, at a stark incline that would freak me out if I thought about it too long, to meet Albin at one of those French bistros we like. It is early February and as I balance my body, feeling at any moment I will tilt too far backwards and tumble, my coat is open and I feel the mist and chill hit my stomach. I am both punishing myself and also proving that I can still feel something there. At night I pinch my stomach below my belly button while Albin snores, like maybe my womb is just asleep, like I used to wake you when you left your alarm to ring, and ring, and ring early in the morning, pinching your arm to shake you from a dream, when you swore you would wake up even if I predicted you wouldn’t.
When I arrive at the restaurant—Le Fouquet's, which is a knock off or an homage or a bastardization of the original in Paris, depending on who you ask—Albin has already ordered the raclette and a dozen oysters. Three empty shells lay open with small puddles of their ocean home or melting ice rippling slightly in the center. He looks up, timid and sly, and boyish still as I remove my coat and drape it over the back of the chair. “I’m sorry, I had to make sure they hadn’t spoiled.” A wine glass with a crimson, light wine sits with my table setting, a Sangiovese I know, my favorite ordered to arrive before me so that I don’t have to wait, don’t have to be inconvenienced, don’t have to do without for even a moment.
“Of course.” I smile, bringing the glass to my lips, looking up at him while it still blocks my expression. Giving him my attention, but not the ability to read me for veracity.
Albin gives me a seventh oyster, and as I dress the thing, tilt it, let it slide past my lips, press it against the roof of my mouth and feel the slight pop of its center, let it continue its journey past my tongue and down my throat, I think about the way he has, since your death, given me the majority of everything. I was granted the majority of closet space in his apartment when I moved in after what happened because I couldn’t stand to live in our apartment anymore. Couldn’t stand the silence of the months that followed and even more couldn’t stand the idea of someone else inhabiting your room, your cupboards, your shelves in the fridge.
I was granted the majority vote in what came after graduation, when I said I needed to get the fuck away from Lake Pontchartrain, the fuck away from the Gulf, the fuck away from the swamp, the fuck away from all the water connected to everything in some roundabout way, still carrying traces of you in it, I was convinced. He jokes now, even now at the table when I comment on how much I love the city, how much better I’ve been feeling even after our last miscarriage, he jokes about how lucky I am to have gotten a Louisiana boy to leave the bayou. “We’re not want to relocate,” he mimics the Cajun accent he grew up with, unlearned in undergrad and brought out only as a party trick in grad school. Something about that too reminds me of you.
You always said you loved him then as much as you loved him now, you just didn’t know it yet, in his waders and boots as a pre-teen in that tiny town, as you did with his newly acquired non-accent, his stripped dialect, his chinos and boat shoes. Near the end of our first semester as roommates, I realized I loved you when you laid at the foot of my bed at midnight in your footsie pajamas with your legs splayed in opposite directions and you told me how you and Albin met for the second time, again, tipsy, forgetting I knew the story by heart.
You and Albin had been arch nemeses in Houma, ever since he arrived in second grade from a couple smaller towns over. You’d spent the last two years in school with all the same kids you’d known your whole life, spent Sundays with in the church nursery. They called Albin a transplant and later you would think about the ways a body can reject an organ, how maybe you resented Albin because Houma rejected you more than it rejected him. First, he’d taken your seat and the teacher said a lady doesn’t cause problems, and he proceeded to follow you from school to school up until you both left for college, each in a flyover state but thankfully many miles away. The way he’d teased you in third grade when you stumbled over reading the passage from The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe out loud in class. The way he had been the only one to notice in seventh when you got your period for the first time, left a smudge of red on the molded plastic seat in home room and he had followed up behind you and wiped it up with the sleeve of his hoodie so no one would notice, asked if you were okay, tried to tell you he had older sisters, but you were too mortified and convinced that he was going to spread rumors about you. No rumors ever surfaced. In tenth when you got your braces taken off, weeks passed and Ethan, your crush and Albin’s best friend, didn’t notice but Albin said “Dude, isn’t it obvious?” and you wondered for weeks what that must have meant.
You were relieved to leave Houma, you were relieved to leave Albin and Ethan and your mother behind. But in its absence the water down there called you back. Tipsy and drunk you would say it called to you, the waves lapping in the ocean or the lake, their own siren call. Living miles from any natural water source in college, you still heard it in your sleep and in quiet moments even awake. It wasn’t until graduate school that your paths intertwined again—you and the water, you and Albin—until you both arrived at the same orientation. I was there too, met you there too for the first time.
I don’t remember Albin—he’d gotten into the social work program while you and I had been accepted into anthropology. “Leslie, hi!” you’d said with your hand outstretched, in your matching set of fuschia plaid skirt and cropped jacket, nothing but a bralette underneath, slim stomach and tan skin showing everywhere. Enamored by you, I hadn’t done more than give you my hand in return, couldn’t remember if I’d even shook or squeezed or whatever you’re supposed to do when you’re offered a stranger’s hand. I think I wanted to kiss it. I don’t think I did. “And you are?”
“Oh,” I’d blinked. I’d blinked so hard an eyelash slipped from my lid and slid into my eye.
I didn’t tell you my name then or for the next several minutes, instead I rubbed and blinked and poured water in my throbbing eye and you tried not to laugh, admitted later you were trying not to laugh. The lash finally bounced from my eye onto my cheek, and you leaned in and grabbed it, held it to my lips and said “Make a wish.” I think I wished for you, and for a while it came true. I didn’t mind sharing you with Albin.
You said you saw Albin there, a few tables away, that you were shocked he had managed
to follow you here too, that he was haunting you and by extension so was Houma. “That’s what I get for coming back to Louisiana for school, I guess,” you would joke. You loved it there as much as you loved to down two pounds of crawfish at a boil, as spicy as possible. The salt of the ocean air and Tony Chachere's coursing through your veins.
After orientation we found out we were roommates, and while I went to Target to stock up on dishes and a comforter and a toilet bowl cleaner, you bumped back into Albin. By that evening when you came back to our apartment you and Albin were tipsy and all over each other, and by morning you were dating.
After dinner, Albin and I decide to walk back home, only ten or fifteen blocks all downhill and past the water, which always makes me feel a little better. Albin has stopped asking why I need to feel a little better, what is wrong, and has begun to understand that I just always have room for improvement and could always stand to do a little better. When he reaches for my hand I hold it back, tightly, and feel him move his body closer into mine. For the first time in weeks or months I am reminded of the first night we spent together.
You had been gone for a while, to many people I have had to stress that but to you, I don’t think I would have to. I think you would understand, would love, even, that this happened to us because of you. You had been gone for over four months, one semester had collapsed into another and your memorial on the lake had been bleached by the sun and destroyed by the rain. Everything was fading in memory, in importance. Albin and I had grown close by my friendship with you, double dates in which I vetted men I met on dating apps, in which Albin would give me a big thumbs up or buy me shots when they revealed themselves to be dull or egomaniacs, or usually both.
There had even been that year I dated Andrew, who you hated but Albin insisted we try to see the best in, until our anniversary which he forgot initially, tried to pretend he hadn’t, and you said to dump him but Albin said it was finals and maybe he just had a lot on his mind. By the end of the night though, he was drunk, angry about some sports team losing some game, and wanted to fuck. You had wandered off to the bar to close our tab and get him water, Albin was pretending to look at the vintage pinball machines while we whisper-fought. Except then Andrew stopped whispering, started screaming, pushed me up against a wall and loudly revealed that I “hadn’t gone down on him in weeks” and could I just “stop being such a prude” and get him off already. He’d had me by the throat or the hair and then I heard you scream and then it was Albin, standing in front of me now. Andrew was holding a bloodied nose off to the side. It had been seconds or minutes, many or a few, I wasn’t sure. The three of us went home. I sat in the middle backseat of the Uber between both of you, and you each held one of my hands and my head found your shoulder and I cried quietly, both embarrassed and relieved.
Four months after they found your body, it was two or three in the morning and I was thumbing my phone screen, scrolling and scrolling through messages with my sister, with friends that had been more yours than mine, our conversations growing stagnant as time passed and they moved on in ways incompatible with my own. In scrolling, my thumb hovered over Albin, who had texted me nearly every other morning wishing me a good day, who sporadically vented about his therapist and said that he wasn’t sure time actually healed anything and that his therapist was a quack for not just giving him medication. I hadn’t responded in awhile, forgetting or avoiding, milling the halls from class to class, coming home and eating stale ramen often dry from its wrapper, letting the television become garbled in the background while I drank three dollar Walmart wine until I fell asleep.
His last message had been on a Friday evening, it was Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. I’m free this weekend, if you wanted to grab a cup of coffee and talk. And then in another message less than a minute later. We can talk about Leslie as much or as little as you want… and then in another message ten minutes later, sometimes it’s just nice being around someone who knew her, really knew her. And then an hour after, sorry, maybe that doesn’t make sense.
Hi, I typed, deleted, typed, deleted, typed, held my breath and sent. And then quickly, I hope this doesn’t wake you up. Sorry, I didn’t notice the time. As the message sent, three little dots appeared to indicate that he was awake. When my message went through, the dots receded for too many long beats and then began again. Hey, it’s good to hear from you. You didn’t wake me.
We ended up deciding to talk on the phone, fell asleep on speaker after saying very little but understanding that we just wanted to know that if we woke up we weren’t alone. By spring break we’d done this every night and finally Albin whispered between long half-sleep-silences, “Just come over.” to which I responded, “Okay.” I didn’t pack a bag, I didn’t even grab my purse, only my keys, and slipped sandals over my socks. I didn’t change, didn’t check my face or hair in the mirror, walked the fifteen minutes to his apartment across campus in pilled flannel shorts and one of your old t-shirts from a broadway musical you attended long before you met me. When he opened the door he looked surprised to see me, stepped aside and let me in without saying anything. He led me to the sofa, not his room, and pulled me into his chest as the television flashed some late night cartoon on mute. My body relaxed against his, like meat set out to thaw against the warmth of him. We fell asleep there, awoken a few hours later by his roommate, James, getting ready for work. He pretended not to see us.
I bathed in his shower, used the deep conditioner you had no doubt left that he had not thrown away, dried myself with the Calvin Klein towels you bought to replace the beach towels he had brought with him from his mother’s linen closet. In a strange way it felt like you had left them for me, in another way a fleeting thought filled me with dread that I was stealing something that didn’t belong to me. We didn’t leave the apartment that week, ordered pad thai and pizza for dinner and ate hot pockets from the back of the freezer for breakfast. As the week dwindled and classes and midterms loomed, an unspoken tension formed between us. Finally and with ulterior motives I said, “I guess I should head back to my place. Put on some of my own clothes, start studying or something,” and as if he knew—from then on he always seemed to know—he said, “I can borrow James’ truck, we could just move your stuff over here.” Again, I only said, “okay.”
We had sex that night for the first time, like we were finally committing to whatever it was we were doing. It was slow and heavy, it felt with every movement like we were a part of some Greek tragedy, pushing our own proverbial boulders up a hill, but doing it together felt better than it had every day before. When we kissed his lips lingered, my bottom lip in his mouth, our tongues brushing each other's teeth. We were savoring something, we were hesitant as if asking you for permission, feeling granted it when we came. We both admitted we didn’t feel guilty, almost felt guilty for not feeling guilty but avoided that too. We concluded that perhaps this was what we were supposed to be doing, having each other if we couldn’t have you.
When Albin and I make it home he begins removing my coat from my shoulders and I shrug into him instinctively. In the last five years we have become like a run on sentence, the comma connecting us slowly disappearing over time, each of my movements sliding into his. Most days this is good, this is what we both needed to happen after you were gone. On rare days, when the grief creeps back in at an odd and unexpected moment, when I cannot help but double over on the sidewalk—pretend I’m just breathing from a run for onlookers—because one thought led into another led into another led into you like a solo-word association game inside my head; I don’t know where I end and he begins; I wonder if we are just tending to each other, if this is love or need or if either of us can afford to tell the difference, if it really matters.
While I drop my clothes next to the bed he brushes his teeth with the bathroom door open, peeking out at me in a way that doesn’t feel like I am being watched but also feels like I am being watched. I crawl into bed, curl my toes and pull up my knees, and he picks up my clothes on the way to his side, dropping them into the hamper without saying a word. In his boxers, he climbs into bed and faces me, my knees against his waist he pulls me close and kisses my hairline, my temple, my forehead, the bridge of my nose, my cheek, and stops there breathing. “I love you, you know.”
I lift my head and catch his lips.“I love you too.” I wrap my arms around his middle, straighten my legs so that we are body to body. In moments like these I wish we could just meld into one, like two raindrops meeting on the window.
My nails run along his back and we both quiver. “Hey,” my face now in his hand, “what’s wrong?” I don’t speak for a long time. It is dark, we cannot see into each other's eyes but I am looking at him anyway. He doesn’t ask twice, he doesn’t move his hand, he waits.
“How much grief do you think a couple can handle before they break apart?” I finally say.
“Oh, honey.” He kisses me, frantically across the face, my lips in passing before finding another patch of skin. “We can handle anything as long as we both want to, I promise. We don’t break apart.”
After another long pause I find myself saying, “What if there is never a baby?”
He breathes, almost like a coo, nose to nose, “There are other ways to have a baby, and if none of those ways sounds good then it will just be you and me and that will be more than enough.”
This time without hesitating I say, “Do you think this is punishment? For not being there for Leslie when she needed us?” He doesn’t speak. This is a question I’ve asked before but he does not answer, instead he holds me and I bury my face into him.
I won’t lie, I close my eyes and I still smell you. I smell you in the mint on his breath, on
the musk of his neck, and with my eyes closed I remember that I am here because as much as I love him, I still love you. All of our other friends are still down there, or in California, or Florida; we all stay close to the water except for James, Albin’s old roommate, migrating all the way to Milwaukee, who still posts on Facebook from time to time how much losing a friend in college fucked him up. You hated James, James wanted to fuck you, James and I fucked once and he called me by your name. I never told you that part. Albin is all I have left of you. Knowing that we have shared something, he and I, you and me, has been the only thing keeping me tethered.
When we have sex it feels, again, like the first time. Gravity feels heavier, pulling me into the mattress. With my arms around his neck I feel like it is you, pulling me out of quicksand, when I kiss him it’s with the gratitude of being rescued, when he comes inside of me it feels again like a seal on some sacred message that I have never read, from you to him and I am just the messenger. After, I lay there on my back breathing heavily, loudly, and Albin lays on my stomach doing the same. I fall asleep in that position and don’t remember when he lifts his head and finds his own pillow, but when I awake before the sun he is there and as he wheezes quietly I lean over and kiss his shoulder before climbing out of bed and getting into the shower.
I use the shower on the other side of the house, the guest shower with the switch that turns on the fan. This has become one of my rituals after a night like tonight in which Albin does everything perfectly and I still can’t stop wishing it had been me—or worse, him—instead. I turn the shower on, hot, and lock the door. I turn the fan on too and I dial a number for a phone sex hotline. That’s not necessarily how the hotline is marketed, but that is what it’s used for. The recording asks if I am over 18, I press one. The recording asks if I male or female, I press two for female. The recording asks me to record my name, and without thinking, as if I’ve done this dozens of times, because I have, I say “Leslie.” I listen to slurred and old-sounding men for five or six minutes, pressing three to skip after a couple of seconds each, until I hear a voice that sounds middle-aged and clear and articulate. The recording says to leave a message for him, asking him to connect with me.
“Hi, I’m Leslie,” I lie. “I’m nineteen years old,” I lie again. “I’ve been very bad and I’m looking for someone who wants to punish me, hurt me, tell me how bad I’ve been. Like really bad. You should connect with me.” That part doesn’t feel like a lie. I have been bad, I am being bad right now. And I do want someone to hurt me, I do want to be punished. I wait while the hold music plays before the recording says that he, Jack, wants to connect with me. I say hello first and immediately he calls me a dirty whore, tells me what he wants to do to me. By now the bathroom is filled with steam, and I am whispering, pretending to moan and agree, repeating after him. I don’t touch myself, but I feel so much better. After about ten minutes I hang up on him mid-sentence, and step into the shower.
Of course, I wonder how much of this was my fault. We’d been fighting, everyone knew that, even our mothers. You had been talking to this girl clique that I despised, smitten in your own way with their chaos and bitchiness in ways I wasn’t. I felt stupid, too stupid to understand the appeal, too meek and timid to even be asked. I was jealous, sure, I can see that now. Jealous that they approached you, seemed to adore you more and more but ignored me when they saw us together. I didn’t go with you that night to the lake for the bonfire, even though you invited me and promised to make them treat me like a human being. I said I didn’t want to be your accessory, that I didn’t want to be your pity invite, told you to take Albin instead. I popped two sleeping pills and turned off the sound on my phone out of spite, didn’t want to see your texts or your photos on Instagram. When I woke up I’d missed a few notifications. A blazing fire, arm outstretched holding a cider against the flaming backdrop on your feed, another girl photobombing you in the second. Robin, I think her name was. She and I spoke in the precinct after I was questioned, she said you were radiant and said that you would be missed. All I said was, “I know.” I’d missed texts too, you saying you missed me. You saying that the party was lame. You sending a photo of your feet in the sand, blurry, with the water inching on the periphery.
The weeks after, while you were missing, I didn’t eat. I lost twenty pounds. I stopped attending classes, I failed one. The dean promised he would let me retake it, said the professor should have given me an incomplete, a paperwork oversight. I slept in your bed, I sat with Albin outside of the police station every day just so we would be close by in case they found something. I couldn’t bring myself to post about you online except to share your missing persons flyer over and over again. When your body washed up that’s when the rumors started, that it had been Robin or one of her friends or all of them together. That it had been an initiation gone wrong. That you had gotten shitfaced and drowned and no one had noticed, they too were drunk themselves. That even the crawfish screamed and could be heard by the the old, mind-addled people who lived nearby. That a creature kind of like a siren or a zombie or an extraterrestrial or all of the above had lured you in and pulled you under before you could let out a sound.
I went to your funeral, sat on the fourth row between some of our other friends until your mother came and pulled me to the front to sit between her and Albin. I took a purple orchid home and it quickly died because I forgot to put ice cubes in its pot. I remember more of these small details than the big ones. They forgot about you, the police and the school, and probably the girls. They don’t know for sure what happened, none of the evidence was substantial enough.
When Albin and I announced that we were moving to Washington after graduation, a lot of people had advice and opinions to share, “well intentioned” warnings. Few people had realized how serious we were, understandably assumed it was just the grief and that we would let each other go and move on in a real and tangible way. Albin’s mother said I couldn’t come to his graduation party, that it felt wrong, so Albin didn’t show up either and turned off his phone for the day. My followers and friends on social media dropped in number when we announced that we were engaged. People felt we were being disloyal to you, didn’t understand that to us it felt the opposite, felt that separating now would be the real betrayal.
The first time we announced a pregnancy there was radio silence, stuttering and stammering. “If it’s a girl you should name her Leslie,” my aunt commented on a post. I deleted the comment, blocked the aunt. When I miscarried in the second trimester Albin sent out the messages, I deleted Facebook. When I got pregnant again we didn’t tell anyone and the third time I didn’t even tell Albin until I bled out in the middle of the night and he woke me, panicked, and had to drive me to the emergency room. We found out then, finally, that it was my blood. My blood and the babies’ had all been incompatible, my blood pushed the baby out because it didn’t recognize it. They said it could be because Albin’s blood type is in opposition with my own, that together we create a baby I am inhospitable to. I want to tell them that where we’re from, water is thicker than blood. We stopped trying after that, but didn’t try to stop it from happening either. Albin said maybe we should use protection until the doctors had figured out a more viable way for us to make it happen, he didn’t want to keep putting my body through the hope and pain, the purging. But I wanted to leave a door open, said it was worth all of it.
Walking down the street this morning, I see the moss and the lichen creeping into every crack in the sidewalk, stretching along the stairs on every stoop, making its way up light poles. Winter has given way to spring, mid-march and still cold. The spongy, green, fuzzy surface of everything man-made is how I know there aren’t too many weeks left to shiver through. This too, Queen Anne and Metairie have in common. I remember the way the green used to spill out over the rocks on the shore of the lake, seep into the brick of the old spanish architecture and across the french wrought iron. I remember the way it had found its way onto you too.
They’d asked Albin and me to identify the body first, your parents three hours away in Lake Charles to be closer to your pregnant sister in Houston. I remember the moss in your hair, the lichen crackling against your shoulder. I remember thinking about how we, as people, I suppose in the most technical sense are also man-made. Perhaps the most man-made. A woman cannot have a baby without a man, even if just part of him disembodied from his facial hair and his big hands and his tendency to never ask for directions. I remember thinking about how badly I wanted some day to make a baby, to grow a human being into an unconditionally loved thing that would never know grief or want, and even if they did, who would always know they were wanted more by me than they could ever want anything else.
I left work early because I wasn’t feeling well, nauseated every time someone opened their tupperware of shawarma or enchiladas or chicken and dumplings. Because my phone alerted me that my period was late by two weeks. I ducked into the pharmacy on the way home, purchased a ginger ale and a box of Clear Blue, picked up a box of peanut M&M’s from the impulse basket for Albin while I waited, couldn’t remember if they had been his favorite or yours in college but knew he liked them all the same. Walking home I thought about the last couple of treatments that I had received from the doctor, the outrageous co-pays I’d had to fork over, and the sheet of paper I brought home warning me that all of this was experimental and that there were no guarantees; a scanned copy of mine and Albin’s signatures saying that we could not get any of our money back or sue or say anything negatively to the media if the treatment didn’t work, or if I died.
Albin was still at work when I arrived home, dropped my bags and coat to the floor in the foyer and took only the box of tests and my phone into the bathroom with me. After peeing on the stick and washing my hands, I set a three minute timer and scrolled mindlessly through notifications and then emails and then junk mail, remembering to breathe in through my nose and out my mouth. I looked at my phone after what felt like ten minutes, not three, and saw that there were eight seconds left. I reached over and turned on the faucet while I waited. I realized I needed to hear the water run.