Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Rain-People

In Romania, we spent a happy hour in the top floor of Betel Biserica Baptista, watching people in the rain ...

   Sitting up there, it seemed we were demigods. The people below--the old woman with a black kerchief tied under her chin, the Orthodox priest, the teenagers--were unaware of the onlookers as the rain began.
   We opened the screenless windows and stretched our hands into the play of the rain. Rain, we knew. Rain was neither American, nor Romanian, nor Russian nor Chinese. Rain was home, whomever you were. The rich scent of it pressed into our faces as we leaned out the fifth-story window and laughed at the bits of humanity, small and significant under our outstretched palms.
   Most of the crowd shifted from one foot to the next and seemed to ignore the rain; one or two people looked up and shrugged. Looked up,but not up enough to notice us and we were glad. Anonymity suited our mood because we were not ready to meet more people whom we would have to bid goodbye. No one thought that clearly, however; we all just wanted a show and a silent seat in an opera box.

   A tram scooped half the crowd into its shovel-mouth and shuttled off to another street, another stop, another priest hearing thunder and crossing himself for safekeeping.
   A boy opened a green tin gate and a pair of breedless terrier-things pelted after an old man with a white beard who had passed that way. The boy gave chase. His mother pursued.
    The rain, by now, was tremendous.

   Another tram: hiss, scoop, shuttle-shiver and the street was empty. An incoming deposit of tram-riders was received to the drumming of a million raindrops. A million was not too many. Two, three million, and still there were drops uncounted.
    Shirtless, a muscular young man darted from the tram into a doorstep crowded with damp humans. He laughed, shook rain from his bare shoulders, and pulled a dry shirt over his head. We laughed high above the street.
   This group dispersed in pairs and singles like damp ads peeling from a wet cement wall and the bare-chested man jogged down the street beside a stranger or a friend--it little mattered; a thorough soaking is as good a bond as any for forming quick attachments.

   By and by, hail mixed in with the rain and the thunder grew ravenous as a blood-hungry lioness. We leaned further into the glory and caught the hail. Some of us ate it and were happy to have known what sky-ice tastes of beyond the Atlantic. Ferocious now, wind thrashed our street with a whip of braided rain. Lightning and thunder kept precarious time and we marveled at the unconcern of the little old lady with her great big purse and a drenched trio crossing over our way.
   Gleefully, we watched as they missed a shallow crossing and plunged ankle depth into a rushing run-off. It was funny to us and stayed so because the trio laughed among themselves and did not seem to mind.

   If ever a wild rain had rained, this was the occasion, for it seemed the drops were contesting in girth and speed to see who might claim superiority.

  The soaked, cloth-plastered woman on our corner crossed to the other and took refuge in a window-ledge where she stayed with a cur-dog for company. Unmoved by their mutual plight, the dog slunk away to play road-kill in the afternoon traffic. A moment, and the woman made a dash for the green tin gate, only to meet water to her calves. She dragged out of the river one shoe at a time and adopted a soggy course town-ward, defeated in the art of staying remotely dry.
   From below us, an old man with a sock fitted over one hand walked away and we wondered why he obscured his fist from everyone's sight.

   Traffic dwindled, rain slackened, and another old gentleman--patient, slow--toddled down the cobbles. His umbrella had played games with the wind and bent like a cup, filling itself from the downpour. Nothing is more frustrating than an umbrella that does the opposite of keeping one dry, but this old man took a philosophical view of the misfortune: one spine at a time, he turned his umbrella right-side out and a gentle, satisfied smile sat on his face.
 Then off he went--patient, slow--and we watched him behind our curtain of rain.

1 comment:

Anne-girl said...

I love how you do this. Notice and turn it into a gift. I practice this skill whenever I can but I think the habit of it is even a greater accomplishment than just the doing of it.