Saturday, February 21, 2015

Drowning; or, when farewells are actually goodbye

It was while walking home, running our conversation over in my mind, yet again that I felt my heart break. It was a slow realization as your words washed over me. There was something I could not put my finger on. Something off about your goodbye. I replayed it, like a child who cannot stop thrusting her tongue into the socket of a newly lost tooth: surprised the tooth is gone, fascinated by the empty socket, and secretly enjoying the little stab of pain. As I walked, the day grew darker and darker and it began to rain. I stared up into the gray sky and let the light rain sprinkle onto my face.  I was pleased by the sudden darkening sky and the deluge of winter rains in the middle of what had been a string of lovely days.  I always like it when the weather matches how I feel; this rain made me feel that I was not alone. Even though, I knew that I had never been more so.

I once watched a PBS documentary about rain in which they cataloged the types of rain. I don't remember any names, or even if they had them, but I remember they ranked the types of rain according to their "levels of danger" and their "ability for destruction." They had a graph to measure these things. It was a quantification of destruction from water. It struck me as odd. The narrator, I think it may have been Tim Robbins, said that when you think of destruction your first instinct is to think of the hard pounding rains, the kind with huge drops, that comes in too hard, too black, and too dark, quickly soaking everything, tearing fragile flowers and leaves in a fury. He said that you might think that sort of rain is the most dangerous kind: But you would be wrong. That rain kicks up a fuss but passes quickly and only tears up the ground a bit. It makes a big impression, but aside from some stirred up dirt and crushed flowers it doesn't do much damage, it is the proverbial loud bark with very little bite.

Oh no, the narrator said, the kind of rain that kills you is the steady mist. Deceptive small drops that just keep coming. The kind of rain that lulls you into thinking that you do not need an umbrella or windshield wipers. The kind that makes you think that it is going to stop any second now, and yet never does. The misty rain that comes and comes until it has slowly soaked everything through. It does not feel dangerous. These misty drops. There is no reason to protect yourself or to seek shelter; but, without knowing or realizing it, is has seeped inside you, into your cracks and nooks destroying you from the inside. This rain lasts for far too long, leaving everything damp and moldy. Filling and soaking until finally it cracks the ground, roads, sidewalks, and people. It is this rain that fills the ground until it cannot hold one more drop, not one more, and then finally we look around surprised as the water rises and backs up and seeps from an overly saturated earth to overfill us; the world a flood of puddles, streams, rivers-- water surfeiting the earth, until dams cannot hold, and the water surges to the surface drowning everything in its path.

It was precisely this kind of rain that fell as I walked home. As I walked, I thought about the danger of a light rain and of other things. The most dangerous kind of rain settled softly on my hair slowly soaking through to my scalp and running slightly down into my damp face drowning any tears before I could know they were there. A murder of crows flew overhead; their dark forms momentarily blocking out the gray and shielding me from the rain. I stopped and let them fly over me as I stood still listening to the dark flapping of their collective wings like the sound of the shuffling of a deck of cards, a roulette wheel, the disordered hands of time. After the initial flock had passed over me and I could again see the sky, I stood still my heart pounding in rhythm with their wings, watching the few stragglers flying after, trickling in groups of five, and then three, and then alone. 

Crows are omens of bad luck: Julius Caesar, Cassandra, and so on, beware the Ides of March, Wallace Stevens... oh, but his are blackbirds and I don't remember if they have the same literary symbolic value as crows. I know that it is crows that are harbingers, prescient warnings of destruction, of Death.  And these, above me, were crows. I found the literary symbolism of the startling of crows on a day dark enough to match my mood while walking in the world's most dangerous rain to be a bit much.  But I am trained to make metaphors of everything, and so it was, that I stood there thinking of Wallace Stevens and equipage with a small smile. Still able to revel in the literary setting even as I felt my heart dying in my chest. Even as I knew these signs were for me. I watched the last of them go, staring until they were black specks, and finally nothing, until even the sounds of the last wing's flap was finally absorbed into the grayness of day and the rain, my mind was filled with images of portent and omens, and I remembered the way your farewell sounded like a goodbye, and your suddenly awkward wave, and the way your back looked as you walked away and I turned to run after you. I ran for about a hundred steps and then stopped. Gasping to breathe, to catch hold of my breath, anything, and finding only air, I thought, oh it's too late, it was always too late.

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