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Jessie Raymond: Frightening message in a bottle

I learned something about myself last week: Water — or, more specifically, my glass water bottle — means a lot to me. Growing older is just one self-discovery after another, isn’t it?
I wasn’t always a big water drinker. But a decade or two ago, when certain corporations figured out that gullible consumers would pay for free water if it were sold in plastic bottles, I was like, “Hey, I’m a gullible consumer. Here’s my money.” I was hooked.
For a while, I was drinking two bottles a day at about $1 per bottle. I knew it was wasteful, but as a penny-wise, pound-foolish cheapskate, I couldn’t bring myself to drop $20 all at once on a fancy glass bottle in a protective silicone sleeve. Then I did the math — well, I didn’t actually do the math, but I made a guesstimate: With such a purchase, I’d break even in a year.
Possibly sooner.
My flashy new water bottle enabled me to stay constantly hydrated, and, as a bonus, made people think I did yoga. But it wasn’t just for looks. That bottle became a piece of me, an integral part of who I was, no less than my liver or my cell phone.
Over time, I’ve grown accustomed to having access to water at all times. I carry my bottle everywhere. When it’s in the dishwasher, I lie on the floor and whine like a kid whose security blanket is in the dryer.
I just didn’t realize, until last weekend, how much I depend on that bottle.
Saturday night, coming home late, I forgot the bottle in the car and didn’t notice until I got into bed. I made do with a glass of water on the nightstand. (I can be quite resourceful under emergency conditions.)
In the morning, when I trotted out to the car to fetch my precious bottle, I noticed that the lid had popped open. That was odd in itself, but things only got weirder (and grosser). Picking the bottle up, I discovered — ick — a drowned mouse inside.
First, I reacted in an appropriate manner, alternately shuddering and screaming. Then my revulsion gave way to confusion. How had a mouse gotten into my car? How had it opened the bottle? If it needed water so badly, why didn’t it get its own bottle? Surely a very tiny glass bottle would cost way less than $20.
My next thought: Was this an accident … or something else? I’ve seen “The Godfather.” I’ve seen “Fatal Attraction.” Had someone drowned the poor creature in my water bottle as a warning to me?
I doubted it. As far as I could recall, I’d never met this mouse; it had nothing to do with me personally. For all I knew, the mouse had some bad gambling debts, that’s all.
After a disturbing few minutes during which I shook the bottle upside down in the driveway until the waterlogged corpse popped out, I ran the bottle through the dishwasher to remove any lingering mousiness.
It didn’t help.
Though technically the bottle was clean, sterilized and entirely de-moused, I couldn’t quite bring myself to drink out of it. For a week it sat empty on the counter while I went about my life, sad and thirsty.
Water. I needed water.
I did drink water. Some. But drinking from an open glass wasn’t enough; I wanted water within arm’s reach at every moment — in the car, at the supermarket, during a mammogram. My throat grew more parched with each passing day.
By the end of the week, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I threw the bottle — the perfectly good, if formerly mousy, bottle — out. I suppose I could have given it away, but if the recipient later came down with hantavirus or bubonic plague, I’d always feel partially responsible.
I did not relish spending yet another $20 on a new glass water bottle. But I couldn’t go on without one.
Luckily, my teenage daughter happened to have two. Moved by my plight — or tired of me complaining in a raspy voice about my dry skin and chapped lips — she gave me one. Joy. Water bottle, you complete me.
My water consumption is back to normal now, but I’m not taking any chances. I’m going to buy myself a backup bottle, no matter the cost, just in case the mouse thing wasn’t a coincidence.
As God is my witness, I’ll never be thirsty again.

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