A Mood Piece About Rain
Today the kids came in carrying umbrellas that were practically as tall as they were, with big hooks at their ends that reminded me of candy canes and question marks. The beautiful PC Room teacher entered the building with her umbrella open and laid it down on the floor that way and just left it there. It looked so out of place, enormous and limp, on its side so that if you saw it at the right angle, it looked something like a water colored street sign or a starfish with webbing between its arms. Outside people left their apartments looking straight up, sticking their hands out to see how many raindrops would land in their palms. All the rain this past week has been the same. There’s no feel to it, as if it’s not falling at all; it’s sort of an odd fuzz that makes the air wet. When I walk on the streets I open and close my umbrella over and over. I can’t decide if I need it or not. All this indecision has broken it, weakening the latch that keeps it open so that the nylon canopy on top can’t contract fully and hangs sadly like a tent that isn’t made right. There’s no point in buying another one. It isn’t raining hard enough and I’d probably just break it anyways.
Sometimes rain makes me happy, but it has to be a certain kind of rain. There has to be the right smell to it and it has to fall hard enough to make streaks of white water run down my window in interesting patterns. Over the weekend, the rain somehow made the wall in my apartment wet. Some sort of condensation or vapor I guess. There was only one spot on my wall where this happened, right above my bed, and when I touched it I thought that the wall was sweating. Like I was living in a room composed on hardened skin, a cell, and the damp areas on the ceiling didn’t come from a leak in the apartment above me, but from homeostasis.
More often than not, unless it’s in a black and white photo, the rain depresses me. In literature, when it comes to setting tone, rain is an author’s whore. It’s ominous and foreshadows tragedy, or it can be romantic and lovers can share their first real kiss in it, or it can symbolize some sort of childish carte blanche that shows us how free spirited the lead character is when she dances in the rain and splashes around in puddles. The rain is literary duct tape, use it for anything. A giant rainstorm can stand for a cleansing of the world, or it can signal a new beginning, a change, rebirth, the end of drought and beginning of harvest. Opening a new book, you might as well hold your hand out to see what the rain is meant to show you. In horror fiction the rain tells us someone will die; in poetry the rain brings forth new life.
Does rain really symbolize anything in my own life? Once I fell and broke my collarbone in the rain, another time I made out with a beautiful girl in the backseat of a cab that sped through what I would mistakenly call a monsoon. There must be a word for that – for something that has a likeness to a certain thing but isn’t it exactly. How many hours have I spent waiting for the rain to stop? I can remember being a kid and how it would rain in the afternoon during summers in Rochester, and at night when the little league baseball games started, my father would throw kitty litter all over the infield to help soak up the water. Then we’d play, our feet sinking into the ground as we tracked fly balls in the outfield or, later, when we walked back to our parents’ cars to go home again.
If I was going to write a novel, I’d have something happen in that gap between fits of rain. The twenty minute break that makes you wonder if the rain will come back or if it’s gone for good. That’s when it would all happen. Death, love, and renaissance. There’s a real melancholy then, if perhaps only because that tiny fragment of time is still undefined. It has its own unique feeling, that imprecise little moment right after the rain has stopped and right before it starts again.