‘Down here, it is cool and still and when I breathe, I hear the sound my breath makes over the still mouth of the well — so I breathe harder for a while to feel these sounds I make, coming back. The woman stands behind, not seeming to mind each breath coming back, as though they are hers.
“Taste it,” she says.
“Use the dipper.” She points.
Hanging on the wall is a mug, a shadow cupped in the dusty enamel. I reach out and take it from the nail. She holds the belt of my trousers so I won’t fall in.
“It’s deeper than you’d think,” she says. “Be careful.”
The sun, at a slant now, throws a rippled version of how we look back at us. For a moment, I am afraid. I wait until I see myself not as I was when I arrived, looking like a gypsy child, but as I am now, clean, in different clothes, with the woman behind me. I dip the ladle and bring it to my lips. This water is cool and clean as anything I have ever tasted: it tastes of my father leaving, of him never having been there, of having nothing after he was gone. I dip it again and lift it level with the sunlight. I drink six measures of water and wish, for now, that this place without shame or secrets could be my home. Then the woman pulls me back to where I am safe on the grass, and goes down alone. The bucket floats on its side for a moment before it sinks and swallows, making a grateful sound, a glug, before it’s torn away and lifted.
Walking back along the path and through the fields, holding her hand, I feel I have her balanced. Without me, I am certain she would tip over. I wonder how she manages when I am not here, and conclude she must ordinarily fetch two buckets. I try to remember a time when I felt like this and am sad because I can’t remember a time, and happy, too, because I cannot.’