I can smell the wet playground from here. The windows are open. It’s October. I can tell because of all the orange and black decorations on the bulletin boards. Mr. Christiansen is at the front of the class, teaching algebra underneath the crucifix. I can see an x and a y on the board, but I’m finding it hard to listen because of the rain.
It’s getting progressively louder on the awnings above the windows. Then the sound of rain gives way to something that sounds like tons of gravel being poured out of a truck. Mr. Christiansen opens the door to the playground and takes a look outside.
“Hail.” He says.
I stand up and look out the windows.
The playground, normally black asphalt, is white.
Pieces of ice, the size of chocolate malt balls, have covered the entire playground. I’m astounded. Frozen water, falling from the sky.
We all look at Mr. Christiansen for a moment. Nothing is said. Finally, he takes a step outside the door and tells us, “Ten minutes. And no running.”
I run outside and pick up a bunch of hail that’s frozen together. It looks like a clump of fish eggs. People start throwing chunks of ice at each other and it all starts to melt too quickly.
The ten minutes are over and Mr. Christiansen calls us back inside. He tells us about how hail is formed, how specks of dust collect supercooled water that are then buffeted by winds up and down in the atmosphere before they become heavy enough to fall to earth.
I’m not really listening.
I can’t figure out how I’m going to get from the car to the front door without getting drenched. I look toward my buddy and he shrugs. There’s no other way. We’re going to have to run the fifty feet to the door.
It’s dry in the Bronco, but there’s a tornado warning.
I pull my anorak around me, flip up the hood and open the car door. The wind is so strong that the drops of water are coming at me sideways. A few find their way past my glasses and I blink. I try wiping off my glasses, then I take them off altogether. There’s just no point when it’s raining this hard.
My legs are drenched, and I realize haven’t taken ten steps away from the truck. I feel water running down my back and I realize that the anorak is completely soaked, useless.
We make it to the front door and drip water all over the hardwood floors. The house is falling apart anyway. I hear voices in the basement. It looks like everyone decided to take shelter in the house. I go upstairs to my room and change before abandoning it for the basement. Someone opens up a bottle of rum and pours it into a glass with cranberry juice. I take a gulp and sit down on the couch with everyone else.
The basement is damp, and dark. According to the news reports, it’s the best place to be. It’s the first tornado for everyone, and nobody knows what to expect.
The tornado touches down in the northernmost part of the District, about four miles from us. The rain dies down and everyone calms down. The next day I step outside to find tree branches everywhere. Puddles of water have replaced a good portion of the street. I’m staring at one of the puddles when its still surface is disturbed.
I never like it when she’s driving home late. Let alone when it’s raining. She had bad enough accidents on dry roads. I look out the kitchen window and watch rain bounce off the roads. Combined with the amber streetlights, I feel like I’m looking at everything through a yellow film.
I see her car turn around the corner and I grab an umbrella. I meet her half way, her face comes out from underneath the jacket she pulled over her head and I see her smile. We’re underneath the umbrella, safe from the rain under metal ribs and plastic. Safe in the middle of traffic as a passing car honks at us. I wave them off with my free hand as we kiss. I close my eyes and I’m only aware of her, and the only thing I can hear.
I’m looking at the drops on the windshield. She’s telling me that we can’t be together, that she never meant for it to get this far.
I’m not really paying attention. I am, in the literal sense of the word. I am hearing her words. But my mind and heart are formulating, plotting, finding the right words in the right combination to make her stay.
I look at the dashboard, the rearview mirror, the floormats, the Iwo Jima Memorial. Everywhere but at her. It’s hard for me to understand her reasoning. Then again, reason has nothing to do with this.
It’s funny about how after all this, it comes down to religion.
A lighting bolt flashes and I start to get out. She grabs my hand and I freeze, half in and out of her car. I feel myself getting wetter and wetter. The drops are fat, and I feel each of the impacts as one constant pressure.
I pull my leg back in and close the door.
No, she says. She changes her mind. She can’t go through with this. She starts to cry, muffled sobs barely audible above the sound of the water hitting her windshield.
I pull her close to me, because there’s nothing else I can do. I feel her tears, their warmth penetrating the cold soak of the rain, and I hold her as tightly as I can.
I have a plane to catch tomorrow morning, but there’s no where else for me to go tonight.
It’s three-thirty in the morning and it’s raining. I swing my legs over the side of the bed and feel the cold wood against the soles of my feet. I watch as the wind shifts, forcing the drops left, then right.
The body next to me grumbles as I watch the rain. She stirs again and there’s just enough moonlight to illuminate her face. She is the most beautiful person I have ever met.
And she is stealing my blankets in her sleep.
I sigh. She can have them for now. I’m not going to sleep anytime soon. I tuck the blankets around her and get up.
I walk around the condo, and for the first time, I feel like it’s really mine. I touch the walls, disappointed that they’re matte white. I keep saying that I’ll paint, but there never seems to be enough time.
I’m not tired, so I get some water and check my email. I delete fifteen emails, the last of which features good prices on “V1a6ra.” Made up languages have ruined everything, even my previously reliable junk filter. I go back to the bedroom and stand next to the window.
The shades are drawn, so I can see the Cathedral from my windows. Down below, I see the little park just behind my building. It must be a huge responsibility taking care of all the trees, bushes and grass. I can’t even take care of a virtual pet.
At least I don’t have to worry about watering them.