I squinted out the window. The apartment where we stayed was only 2 blocks away from the supermarket, but strategically situated between the apartment and the supermarket was the now ominous “Swan Lake,” where at that very moment chaos had ensued. I looked to my friends and shook my head, “This isn’t going to end well.” We had no strategy, no ammunition, and no chance in hell. At that moment, my tummy began to grumble. Soon, my friends’ tummies had joined to create quite a cheerless chorus. I made my way back to the fridge, hoping that after the umpteenth time of opening it food would somehow materialize and we’d be saved. Nope. Alright then. “We’ll only grab the essentials, just enough to get us through the night, then leave. We’ll stay away from the lake, and the crowds, and we’ll stick together... let’s go.”
It wasn’t long until we were under siege. Just a few steps onto the main road sidewalk and Ken was hit. We were warned a few days ago. They said, “It’s a popular Armenian holiday, a big water war which basically represents a baptism, but it’s turned into something more over the years. Everyone is fair game. In fact, you aren’t supposed to stay dry that day.” We brushed it off, so it’s a little water fight, big deal, we can avoid it. Little did we understand the scale of it, and how something as simple as grocery shopping could become a potential health hazard.
“Go! Go! GO!” yelled Ken, as the hose that got him threatened the rest of us. And go we did, through the back streets avoiding the lake which was now a source of never-ending ammo for the masses. We kept our eyes sharp for any other sources of water. Yerevan is filled with drinking fountains giving cool and refreshing water, generally welcomed on hot summer days, but treacherous today. Suddenly, SPLASH. A water balloon, from a balcony not too far above us, hit Zane. The culprit, an elderly woman, armed and dangerous. Two down, three more to go.
“You might still make it!” he said moodily. But straight ahead, there was a water fountain surrounded by people with buckets and what looked like a makeshift hose. We were doomed. “Don’t make eye contact,” whispered Naira. “Just keep walking and stay close to the building walls.” We checked above for more aerial strikes, behind us, up at the group ahead. Then it came out of nowhere, SPLASH. The doors to the hairdresser’s opened and an employee brandishing a bucket of water absolutely drenched Naira. My heart rate started to rise. If there’s anything I hate, it’s getting wet against my will. After looking around at my friends, I knew my odds of getting through this ordeal dry were slim to none.
Daron and I look at each other. We were the only ones that remained dry. But we were so close! At this point, we pumped our pace up to a sprint. We were just one block away, I could SEE the supermarket, the taste of victory in my mouth. Then a car rolled down its window. It was like seeing things in slow-motion. A colorful Super Soaker. A nearly straight line of water across all our chests. A cry of defeat. Victims of a drive by squirting. After assessing myself, I concluded I was only “wounded.”
Then we saw them. Twins, about 5-6 years old, bearing water bottles and toothy grins. A door from one of the buildings opened, and out came a girl in her twenties dressed in a red dress, high heels, her hair done up in perfectly wavy curls. She must have worked tirelessly on it for hours. A young man jumped out of his car to escort her. The twins grinned mercilessly. The young man threatened, I held my breath. Then Daron whispered “run.” One of the twins came after us the other splashed water on the girl. There was screaming, cursing, angry gestures, and running. Daron jumped in front of the water in a motion of self-sacrifice, we hurtled towards the supermarket three feet, two, one… SPLASH. A teller from within the supermarket managed to soak me head to toe. I sighed. There was nothing more I could do. Hands hung by our sides as we grabbed the necessities in a solemn, sluggish, sloshy and soggy state, and left the supermarket disheartened and weary about the journey back…