A Fish Out of Water
By Beatrice Robinson
For a long time, Perrier, with naturally occurring carbonation, has been the water of choice to the wealthy elite. The class and pretension that oozes naturally from anything French, meant that being seen without this dark green organically sculpted glass (no expense spared) bottle of Perrier while doing everything, insinuated that you weren't anyone. Things are a lot more complicated now. The market has been saturated, if you will, with all types of water—making all kinds of social and economic gestures. Water has become a type of Whiskey in its own right and time must be taken to make the right choice, not only for your palette but for your social standing.
Brooke, taken by advertising, approached the oasis that is the drinks aisle with an increasing awareness of the implications her purchase could have on the rest of her life. Water, our evolutionary comrade means so much more than hydration, it is a constitutional product steeped in class, hierarchy and geological exoticism. This moment, a blend of anxiety and revelation along with the sharpness of her third eye, was indicating to Brooke that synchronicity was not just a figment of Carl Jung's imagination. She had a strong feeling that this event was no accident, and a journey to higher consciousness and spiritual awakening was being revealed to her by aisle 8. She observed the shades of blue through the eyes of a self-fulfilling prophecy and believed that self-discovery and Nirvana were awaiting her at the bottom of one of the bottles.
The journey would, of course, be slow and arduous, a natural characteristic of a pilgrimage of its kind; it could take days, months, potentially years to make the right decision. The liquid revealed little at first. It was enigmatic and ambiguous. Brooke paced up and down the aisle, imagining herself as Moses—dividing the water that surrounded her. Her mind continued to wonder, beyond her surroundings and the Bible, to the various destinations of the globe that this tamed element had been retrieved from, and what it all meant.
She considered which of the classics best represented the aura she intended to broadcast to the world, was it Fiji—an artesian water, naturally filtered through volcanic rock resulting in a 'unique' mineral profile as well as a soft and smooth taste? This archipelago of more than 300 islands in the South-Pacific and its colonial history was appealing to Brooke's inner Republican. There was also Evian, a classic choice for the narcissist; not only marketing itself as a fountain of youth but a company that takes credit for planet Earth's various ice-ages in forming geological terrain with natural filtration—purely for the manufacture of its product. If it was aristocracy Brooke wanted to indulge herself in, there was Hildon—a water sourced from a well on the Hildon Estate in Hampshire, England. Not to mention S. Pellegrino, a water described as an 'Italian Icon.’ Its value and iconic identity were simply expressions of its Italian spirit. This brand of water has been associated with London, New York, and Milan fashion week—a premium brand naturally synonymous with style.
Brooke believed she was the medium, but what was the message? What were these deities trying to convey to her? Between the health benefits of the vitamins and minerals, to the ornate marketing strategies, the message to a trained eye was as simple as the goading of Alice in her Adventures in Wonderland – 'Buy Me'. An onlooking employee, reading the dilemma frequently faced by customers subjected to unnatural varieties of life's elixir interjected— “I drink tap water”. Brooke like others before her, had, however, been carried away by her own spirituality. She quickly transitioned into a cult leader of her own mind and as such, began to browse the rest of the supermarket for offerings. As she gradually collected talismans, totems, and jujus for the water bottles, she created an atmosphere of peace and tranquility that George Harrison would have been proud of. The aisle began to resemble the shrine of some kind of temple. Cans of beans, flowers, tea-bags, sugar, chocolates, tooth-brushes, coconut-oil, and Coca-Cola now ornately decorated the base of the shelves.
It had been four hours and things were starting to resemble the wrong type of LSD trip. Brooke had entered what one might describe as a transcendental state. Time had become an abstract concept that was flowing by as easily as the rivers and waterfalls of her mind. Soon days had passed by and dehydration had started to set in with her thoughts beginning a steep decline into paranoia and conspiracy theories.
All the water looked the same to Brooke now. She was becoming increasingly skeptical of the legitimacy of the claims of the companies she thought she had an allegiance with. The genius of commodifying nature and turning a necessity into a monetary token was blowing Brooke's mind. How had Evian, S. Pellegrino, and Perrier, to name a few, managed to differentiate this clear, inconspicuous material, and where was the evidence that they had been bottled at source? These were all questions. Her mind spiraling faster and faster into the oblivion of possibilities marketing has access to. The tables had suddenly turned and she believed freedom of choice was no longer in her grasp. Were the bottles of water judging her?
Brooke needed a sign, but aisle 8 had become stoic. After three days it was too late for the realization that she was not, in fact, Siddhartha—she had reached a terminal of mind, body, and spirit. Brooke needed an intervention, one of the divine calibre; Jesus turning water to wine—potentially opening up a whole new can of worms—for which Brooke would have to become a sommelier of a different kind. Jesus didn't come, and after three days without water, sustaining the Aquarian in all of us, Brooke was gently lulled towards the river Styx— a body of water she could finally believe in.
Beatrice Robinson is currently pursuing a Masters in Creative Writing at California Institute of the Arts, having graduated from Goldsmiths College, London, with a Bachelors in Fine Art. Her practice is a hybrid of fiction and non-fiction, which are used in tandem to channel cultural criticism. She is working on a book of short stories investigating Americana. Show her love at email@example.com.
Photo by Oscar Keys