My Grandfather left me three things in his will; a John Wayne-signed movie poster from Rio Bravo, an assortment of low denomination coins from around the world, and his crippling fear of water. I sold off two of those things, but the other has followed me all my life.
He was my mother’s father, and an eccentric fellow. Convinced that water would kill him, he was deathly afraid of the ocean and avoided baths at all costs. He wouldn’t leave the house if it was raining, and the very sight of a puddle would entice a nervous breakdown.
I never met my mother, so I can’t be certain if she shared his phobia. She drowned whilst giving birth to me. It was a water birth, you see. Floating in a paddling pool of shallow water, the midwife delivered me without complication, until she turned back to my mother – face down and not breathing. I don’t believe the solace in validation provided my grandfather much respite from his grief.
Years of therapy have helped me overcome my fears, but everyday is still a struggle. I can’t use ice cubes. I’ve never seen Titanic. And I definitely can’t listen to the rock band Wet Wet Wet.
I thought I had my phobia under control, until a recent trip to Japan for work. Lost in thought whilst on the toilet, I was assaulted with a surprise burst of water in a sensitive area hitherto untouched. The shock of the experience sent me spiralling, and I rushed from the hotel like a hurricane unfurled. I had to leave the country, but this tiny island was surrounded by oceans. Stuck between a bidet and a hard place. No justice for those with aquaphobia.
Water, water, everywhere… I can’t remember the next line, but it feels prevalent.