Few things in life make you contemplate your eventual demise like the head pounding, tongue swelling, achey shaking of a hangover. You don’t feel human. You’re racked with an animalistic thirst and yet simultaneously crippled by waves of nausea and immobility of limb.
Or, so I’ve heard.
You would kill for a single sip.
Now, I’m one those people who demonstrate weird water behaviors on a normal day.
I consume at least a gallon during the daily grind. If I exercise, I chug an additional 12-16 oz post workout. People are incredulous when I describe the absurd amounts of H2O I guzzle and seem to take a weird pleasure in informing me (after meticulous WebMD’ing) of the many horrible diseases which feature unquenchable thirst as a symptom. Yes. I know. Cancer. Cancer. Cancer. (And also, Diabetes).
Trust me, I’m fine.
But last weekend, around 4 am on Sunday morning after a long night of drinking with friends, I’d collapsed into bed without the requisite glass of water nearby. There was no water bottle. No tea. No beverage of any sort within arms reach. To top it off, I wasn’t home, tucked safely into my own bed, but rather crammed between friends in a lofted room in western Virginia, two winding, twisting stories from the nearest water source.
It was pitch black.
The steps leading downstairs were treacherous under normal circumstances, but I was especially hesitant to attempt navigating them while still (mostly) inebriated and utterly unsure of my surroundings. Plus, the soft breathing and light snores in every direction reminded me that everyone else was sound asleep and my general drunken klutziness would in no way be appreciated right now.
So I lay there. Miserable. Thirsty beyond belief. Pressing my tongue to the roof of my mouth searching for some excess, hidden moisture I had yet to discover. I licked my lips. I licked them again. I pictured myself crunching on icy snow cones and sucking on lemonade popsicles. I willed myself to fall back to sleep with the promise of water in the morning — but to no avail.
And then. Then. A small miracle happened.
This guy. This wonderful, god-like man nearby stirred. He flipped and he flopped, jostling me with an elbow, a foot. Then, he rose. Half asleep, he shuffled downstairs. The winding steps creaked under his weight but he was sure footed, confident in his movements. I lay there. Hoping. Fervently praying that this person who was practically a stranger would somehow read my mind and bring me back something, anything liquid. I tried to talk myself out of wanting it too much.
He doesn’t even know you’re awake, I chided myself. There’s no way he’ll think to bring you water. I didn’t want to get my hopes up for fear I might jinx it. There was no way he’d consider me and my needs in this pre-dawn moment, would he?
Minutes later, he returned. Quietly, cautiously, he climbed the turret. As he lowered himself back towards the floor, I felt a nudge. Warm breath in my ear.
“Thirsty?” he whispered.
Oh, so this is what love feels like.
The vision before me of a man gently cradling a cold bottle of San Pellegrino brought tears to my eyes.
I imagine the joy coursing through me in that moment was on par with the emotions a new mom experiences when gazing upon her husband holding their newborn baby for the very first time. It was a happiness so pure I thought I might confess my adoration on the spot.
Instead, I croaked out a feeble mouth noise, before downing half the liter in seconds. The bubbles danced on my tongue. The cool liquid swam down my throat. The water hit my stomach and was instantly distributed throughout my body in the most necessary way. I felt whole. I felt new.
Hydration is fucking beautiful.