Warm Rain

In India, Pittsburgh on June 11, 2011 at 12:00 am

From my Nature & Environmental Writing class. We were asked to maintain journals of environmental concerns. Photograph of reflecting pool in front of Grant Memorial, Washington, D.C.

It was 9 p.m., and I had to bike home. I had just enjoyed a successful rehearsal at my friend Jesse’s house. We had practiced some songs and sketches for our comedy show, and we could leave the house satisfied. But as I zipped myself into my windbreaker and started to unlock my bike, my friends frowned.

“Are…” Joe muttered. “Are you gonna be okay?”

“Oh, yeah,” I said.

“You sure?” Billy added.

          All around us poured a driving rain, so thick and heavy that it was difficult to see across the street. The moment I lifted my bike from Jesse’s landing, my plastic coat and pants were soaked. The rain shot through the openings in my bike helmet and slicked off my hood.
          My friends slipped into their respective cars, waved through their windshields, and drove off.
          Most people would not recommend riding a bike through East Liberty at night, period, but to do so in a severe rainstorm, with lightning flashing in the distance, seemed so much the worse. But I started to pedal down the narrow street, slowly only slightly for stop signs, because nobody was driving at this hour, not in this weather. My body started to sweat inside my plastic shell, but as I picked up speed, upshifting gears with my wet hands, I grinned into the muggy air.
          This was a warm rain. And that made all the difference.
Years ago, I pursued a young woman whom I’ll call Aamina. She came from Bombay, and she was stunning to behold — tall and thin with long black hair and a subversive smile. She lived alone and loved to order takeout (or “take-away,” as she would have it). We spent many sultry nights at her apartment, too young and uncertain to really take advantage of our seclusion, so we just talked about literature for hours and hours.
          Once, Aamina said how much she loved the rain.
          “Well, you must love Pittsburgh, then,” I said.
          “Not this kind of rain,” Aamina said, furrowing her nose. “The monsoons.”
          “What’s the difference?”
          “The monsoons,” she said, “are warm. It doesn’t feel like water. You know how a bath doesn’t feel like water, after awhile? It’s like that. You feel slow and submerged. There is a warmth that I could never explain. Monsoon weddings are the best. I’m always happy when people decide to have monsoon weddings, because when you play music and dance, everyone is outside, in the rain, just dripping wet, but you don’t feel wet. You only feelalive.”
          This notion changed how I look at rain. Before rain had always felt like a chore, a sacrifice, something that must happen now and again. As the song goes: “Every time it rains, it rains/pennies from heaven…/Trade them for a package of/sunshine and flowers/if you want the things you love/you must have showers.” As if rain is only an investment, something dreary that must happen in order to afford joy.
          I thought of Aamina as I rode back through East Liberty’s downpour. Her life did not turn out well — the high expectations of a Brahmin’s daughter overwhelmed her, and she rebelled with blackout drunkenness and random sexual escapades, until, as I understand it, she returned to India, a troubled, damaged young woman. I met her in a purer time, when the future seemed so open.
          I always look forward to that first spring rain, and every time the sheets fall airily on my shoulders, I think of Aamina, wonder what happened to her, whether she ever had her own ceremony in that broiling cloudburst. I’ll always have to wonder. Some people are like that — visible, untouchable, like mist.

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