She washed her hands carefully; casually, to the outside observer. She wound them around one another watching the water flood through her fingers. Life was pressing in from all around. She could feel it pushing her, prodding her, promising to pull her from this moment. Another person entered into her sphere to dip their hands into the same sink and snatch away from her some of the precious water falling down.
Her heart was full and empty. Alone and surrounded. The water on her hands felt so real. The sink seemed so solid. Everything that she could see felt tangible and final. But she had to believe that at any moment it would collapse like a movie set to reveal a world so much deeper and fuller and wrapped in more vibrant colors than she’d even imagined.
She squeezed her eyes shut, willing that world to appear around her; willing herself to believe that this wasn’t all there was, willing the sink in front of her to dissolve into a deep fountain of water that would find these hand finally washed clean.
She heard the person beside her move away. She heard the door swing open. She heard it close and then silence blanketed the room. She cracked her eyes, barely a millimeter, and for a moment she caught her breath. There it was. There was that new world caught in the slit of light that was distorted by eyelashes blurring all the shapes and turning the water itself into something fantastical, threaded with light as it flooded the sink.
Opening her eyes more fully she moved one hand slowly out of the water to reach for the faucet leaving the other alone and naked in the flow. She pushed down gradually on the handle watching the rush of water stem and then slow and finally trickle to a stop.
She examined her hands, and again was confronted with two realities. They looked clean. Memories of junior high science class filled her mind and held them up to the light, willing her eyes to see the millions of germs that would be crawling all over them again before she could even make it back to her desk.
This thought spurred a smile to tug at the corner of her mouth. Maybe everything felt like a spiritual metaphor because everything WAS a spiritual metaphor. She laughed softly to herself, and then raised one of the hands to her mouth to muffle the sound. She wasn’t sure if it had become audible or remained inside, and then it didn’t matter because in a flash of faith she could see and all was well. She reached for the door, unafraid of what the day might do to her newly washed hands. In this place, they would never be clean. Tap water doesn’t have that kind of staying power. But, at least for this moment, this world had collapsed around her and it seemed foolish to be afraid. There was nothing to lose. At least for this moment, only eternal things seemed eternal, and she could believe that the temporary was temporary. Everything that mattered was real.