Friday, August 12, 2005

Mainly Plain

We'd been sitting in the den, doors closed, watching a dreary, existential French zombie movie. It had just built to its climax -- a hamfisted Orpheus allusion -- and was standing there beaming like a clever child waiting for praise. I snorted. The airconditioner was on in the adjacent room, and a fan roared in the doorway -- our attempt to eke a few more square feet of chill out of the remote machine. It was loud, and barely cool. The night, once again, was heavy and warm, quintessential August, the real cruellest month.

I got up and slipped out into the hot, dark living room, closing the door behind me. As the engine sound faded, a new sound filled my ears, enveloped me, a sound of a whole different timbre, a wide, fresh, familiar sound, interlaced with human voices from the adjoining yard. It was percussive, rustling, complex; it was alive in a way the roaring fans of the den could never be. I walked toward the window. It was water I was hearing. A sprinkler ? A hose ?

Rain ! Of course. Rain, rain on leaves. Rain pouring straight down through windless air.

"It's raining," I called. "It's raining a lot," I declared, "a lot." I had to make up for those three seconds when the nameless sound had amazed and confounded me. I went out onto the verandah and looked up the street. It was slick with rain, which was running down the gutters; the thick air was fragrant and alive with downfall.

As I looked out at the rainy night I felt nostalgia, a pure nostalgia, divorced from any particular object. A nostalgia, maybe, for everything: God, rhyme, meaning, desire, hope -- all those quaint, dear bibelots of life.

Rain, I muttered, clutching at the word. Rain.

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