I cannot always chart my emotional course, but I can predict where the current will take it. It is a familiar river with familiar landmarks. Half the waxing moon is not a good day. It involves the selfishness and indulgence that come with feeling mildly miserable, but being in too little pain to forget the ego, which insists on futilely pointing out certain biological injustices. A few days later, a slow crawl of loneliness and depression sets in, easy enough to forestall during the busy day, but creeping into the mind as night falls. The full moon brings a wild energy and passionate desire, and sometimes frustration, but is far more welcome. And between the full moon and the new moon, well things are almost…normal.
Tonight was not that night. Tonight the moon is only three-quarters full. I finished my book, bought and read in six short hours, too little distraction. I thought to work, but sat instead and lost at solitaire, while Matt Dusk sang Two Shots Happy, One Shot Sad. I was almost relieved when the storm called. This time I grabbed my jacket from the hook by the door. As much as I longed to feel the storm, I wanted to stay out in it. This was not a night for high-flung perches and revelry. Tonight I needed to move.
Rain was already falling. I pulled the hood up then pushed it back. It cut off too much, the wind, the thunder, the feel and taste. I stood on the south steps of the capitol for a time, watched the uniformed State Trooper walk through the door directly below me without ever looking up, but I was too restless to stay. Tonight’s storm was different. They are all different. It was subtle, almost gentle, not quite ominous. Even as I turned my back on it and headed north, I felt its soft presence with me. The hard south wind of the afternoon had become a playful north breeze across my face, but above and behind me, the clouds still rode in from the southwest.
I gave in at last and tucked my rain soaked glasses into my pocket. The cloudscapes where so wide across the sky, I didn’t need them to see clearly the backlit tapestry. There is something about rain, something distinct and different from any other form of being wet. The way it patterns slowly and beads and rolls, the smell of it, the taste, the feel on the skin. Rain is its own thing, not like the water that comes from a tap, not like a lake or river or ocean, distinct.
The capitol is four square blocks, eight in perimeter, two laps around equal three miles. I came around to the wide north steps, the grand entry, almost a block wide at the bottom step. I was almost three-quarters past when I turned and headed up. Looking up at the solid stone block of the north entry, I was in awe. After all these years, still in awe.
Oh, Bertram Goodhue, you got it right. So very right, I thought as I followed the steps up to the second story terrace ringing the stone base. At the top, beneath the arch and the brass doors, I slipped my glassed back onto my nose, but somehow the monolith lost its intensity as I became able to pick out details, shapes, break down the constituent parts of the grander whole. I quickly slipped the glasses back into my pocket.
That’s what we do, isn’t it? Break our lives, our worlds down into their constituent parts, their petty details, their easy to understand shapes and ideas. We lose the intimidating majesty of the blurry monument beneath the racing storm set on the vast diamond-studded plain of warm summer night full of seething ambiguous emotion. We feel too small to hold it all, so we cut it up, discard the unendurable, keep what we can, rolling them over and over again in our minds, clinging to them like stones in the flood.
I lapped the terrace, pausing to watch the storm and the shine of the rain falling into the spotlights. I walked slowly back down those wide north steps, gray, smooth, and distinctionless to my unfocused sight. I could feel the unease burning off, ebbing and flowing, receding but not gone. Enough energy spent I could let go of the struggle of struggling at least. I finished my outer lap, and as I turned to home, the storm gave one final blinding burst, greater than all the others. I staggered. The thunder came, rolling then crashing, like the heavens might truly fall and continuing from one corner of the sky to the other, first before then behind me.
Everything after was epilogue. The wind became still, the rain gentled and slowed, the thunder gave only distant grumbles, like a child reluctant to go to bed but too tired to stay awake. I returned home. I striped out of my wet clothes and pulled the smooth red kimono from its hook. I set the kettle on and reached high for the bottle of Jameson. I keep it on the top shelf. It is still mostly full.
I’m sorry Marilyn, though I tried, I could not quite inherit your love of Scotch. There is just something about whiskey that pleases me to no end. Even the smell of it. I brewed my coffee and added the Irish.
Then I wrote this. Why? I don’t know. Not really. For the same reason the summer storms roll in just after sunset. The same reason rain is more than mere water. The same reason whiskey makes me smile and Scotch makes me think of her.
I unwound my mala from my wrist and set it on the desk beside me. I sat in the dark and sipped my whiskey-laced coffee and wrote. And nothing changed. Nothing went away. Not even the storm. One thunder-cell followed another. The emotions remained, untouched.
And everything changed.