One day last week, I awoke to a deluge, the sort that fires water as from hoses, and I turned over and closed my eyes again. I’d planned to get an early start, but… too late. In a city, umbrellas protect your top half—hard rain bounces from surfaces and soaks you shoes to waist. The French say, “il pleut comme les vaches qui pissent,” or “it’s raining like cows pissing,” and a Midwest variant of that picturesque description adds, “on a flat rock.”
If you don’t have to go out, you shouldn’t. As it’s summer, I had time to idle a little. Later, when I went to the window, I watched the corners of the nearest intersection become steeplechase water jumps. Soon cars crossed through a pond. And still the rain fell. To use another French expression, “Il pleut des cordes.” It rained ropes.
Some people love rain, love being snug inside, under cover, away from thunder, lightning, and wind. I’ve known enough leaky windows and roofs to fear storms even then. Mother Nature is stronger than shingles, tarpaper, brick, mortar, wood, and nails. Water finds a way.
Plus rain erodes me over time. A few years ago, the Tribune reported that, in one month, Chicago had seen 12 minutes of sun. That figure must have came from a machine, but I pictured a despondent soul in a parking booth, stopwatch in one hand, his head in the other, leaning out a window, wistfully staring at the sky, waiting. When it rains days in a row, I’m that despondent soul, just as gray inside as outside.
Those convinced of nature’s indifference watch rain without worry, but I attribute intent to all of nature’s workings. The trouble exceeds particulates crowding clouds or an atmosphere that industry and car exhaust charge with CO2. It goes beyond us. When it rains this hard, something means to do me in.
Silly, I know. Says more about me than rain, clearly. Some feelings, however, come before you can block them, and, once they penetrate, percolate. You have trouble getting them out when they’re in.
When I was young, a friend’s mother said, “You’re sweet as sugar, but you won’t melt” and sent me home in a storm. I ran, in tears, cringing at electricity I imagined in the air, leaping at the lowest rumbles or palest lightning. Of course, rain often catches me in the city, and I accept it. But I’m no less timid, clinging to buildings and rushing between awnings.
Rain worries me, though it waters crops, fills reservoirs, and brings May flowers. I have too much in myself.
Later in the day, the line of storms (the paper called it a derecho) flew through, and the sky returned to a jeweled blue. The temperature dropped degrees, and breezes kicked up. I left the house, committed to overlooking my tardiness, and sidestepped all remaining puddles on my way. I tried to forget, as I always do, life was ever anything but bright.