Pulled by thirst, the walk back was faster. I had not drank anything since 9 am and that was coffee: three cups. It was 12:15 pm. I had to pee. My stomach rumbled. I had an apple in my bag that I ate on the walk back and nothing else.
“This is usual,” I say to no one tossing the core in the gutter.
Focus. The sky was clearing but my retinas were dotted with circles, little colored balls floating in front of my eyes. I didn’t notice anything but the pavement, slick and for no reason, a red bow on the ground, like a dog collar. Everything else was a blur.
The first thing I did when I got back is throw off my shoes. The second was get a glass of water. Third, bathroom. I felt dizzy as I bent over pulling the moist cotton over my ankle; tossing them on the porch. Ignoring the new blister, ignoring the rank sneaker, I trodded in leaving a spotted trail wherever I went. The water was tap, lukewarm. Well water. They say well water tastes better. I didn’t notice a thing The fourth thing I did was take off all my clothes and get in the shower. They say that’s when I fainted.
It was Mac who found me on the floor, water running over my naked thighs and pelvis. I hadn’t fallen but slid down the tile and rested so it looked like I was asleep in the upright fetal position. Apparently, Mac pulled me out and shook me a bit til I came to. Must have been all of five minutes, truly. Lucky for me, he said, I had skipped the panel too. I had left the door open in my haste. Mac had come right after me and dutily went to shut it when he saw, curtain open, on the floor. Lucky for me.
Lucky for me the group now watched me eat lunch in front of them. It was 1:45 pm. They had brought me a salad and french fries from wherever they were and I was expected to eat all of it at the table. “You don’t eat enough,” Camille said.
I nodded and dipped my fry in the two dollops of ketchup they gave me.
“Or drink enough water.”
“I’ve been drinking water,” I swallowed quickly to gesture to the sink. “I drank seven glasses yesterday, I counted.”
“Today, I forgot.”
She was picking at her chicken. I was wolfing down pieces of iceberg.
“I’ve had a headache since I got here. That’s why I bought the neti pot. I think it’s sinuses or allergies…”
“Allergies don’t make you faint. Anorexia does.”
Camille had eaten five bites of her chicken and promptly got up to throw it out.
She put the kettle on the stove and began to boil water.
“For tea,” she said as she walked past me. “And the neti pot.”
I heard her move upstairs, still wearing her platforms clink the whole way up and close her door, heavy. Not a slam but close. I turned to watch the kettle, enthralled.