In the Absence of Rain


Dust bathes the tops of the cars. In the old world it rained all the time, big passionate bursts. Now if you want to see rain, you have to go to the museum. Stand on a platform alone, and watch it fall like memory all around you, silver, soft, and wet. The catch? You can’t touch it. Each time you reach out your hand, the thin braids recede. You miss those autumn nights in Saratoga, watching the water slip from the leaves on the oak outside your window, a soft hush over the house. A girl in bed beside you, squeezing the water from her hair. When you leave the museum, a couple near the exit forms a heart with their bodies. There are no seasons here. Look around, you want to say, the whole world has evaporated. You want to tell everyone, like the victim of a crime who can’t stop recounting it.

At the restaurant in Los Feliz, you sit alone at the bar, staring at the rows of bottles glittering on the shelf. In its blue glass, vodka looks like a gray sky collapsing over a wide field. It reminds you of all the homes you’ve ever had, and all the people who were your home, especially the lovely, rainy ones. You’ll have some of that, you tell the bartender. At closing time, you’ve lost count. Blacked-out little angel, you shuffle home under the streetlights and dissolve into sleep. Tonight like every night.

Rain has no parameter, no geometry, no shape, no meter, no rhyme. It has no borders. It spills over into everything. Perhaps you do not like the rain; you are one who likes limits. Or maybe it’s the opposite. Maybe rain is all borders, and you are desperate to be hemmed in. You don’t want an endless horizon. You want the dark body of the storm to bear down on you. You want to be left alone inside your private weather to write. Franz Wright calls it wisteria rain. Charles Dickens calls it lopping rain. It’s the silence you live inside. It’s in your house already, moving through the living room to the kitchen, pooling in the doorway of the study. It lets itself in, which is the sort of love you have come to rely on.

Last time you were home, your father woke screaming from a dream. You heard him from down the hall and shook him awake, held him like a child as he sat up, disoriented. Your father is seventy-six, without any notable trauma in his life. And yet he often wakes screaming. It never stops scaring you. Why are some of us haunted, others not? You are one of the haunted. Your father holds your hand to fall back asleep. He was never in a war, but almost.

You wake late, pull on your clothes, walk forward into the abbreviated day. No one’s died in years and isn’t that a blessing? The asphalt ripples with heat. Maybe the time has come, you think, to carry yourself away to a quiet place for a month or more, maybe the time has come, since there is no more sound to sleep beneath, no soft wash over the roses at night, only your face like a waterlogged lemon, floating in the mirror in front of you. Only this room in which you find yourself, alone and shaking from the comedown, crying uncontrollably, four walls filled with a rain only you can see.

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