A Meditation on Sun and Rain
Sun Town, Outskirts, 8:37 am -
Shafts of hearty morning sunlight break through the trees, making the winding road sparkle. The music is raucous, egging the day forward. There is no plan for the day, other than the dear hope that we'll hit the sand and watch the waves.
Our destination is the special place, this restaurant at the edge of the sea. Old plank piers, nautical antiques, and Sun Town signs are everywhere, even way out here, far from the urban area. I've known Sun Town all my life; its light, its focus, this feeling we residents get travelling place to place. This is a feeling we experience every minute of every day.
A vast clanging commences as incoming ships coast into the bay. We sit outside and tuck in. Light hits the water as it always does - a giddy blue, traces of azure and amber where the water lifts and crests over the sand. I love it here. I love being here with him.
It's just past ten now, and a cool sea breeze hits my cheek, even as my arms burn. An old woman with a Pomeranian walks by and speaks with us. She's from the village just south of here. She can remember when this area was all sand, rocks and forest line, and no roads. But it's so nice, she says, a wrinkled hand on quivering fur to quell the beast, to have people like us to talk with. She used to feel so isolated, and the roads bring us to her. What a delightful woman. She moves on just as our food arrives.
Dollops of ketchup along herb coated potato. More ships on the horizon. Joggers dot the cliff trail far to the north. Should we move the car? No? Then mimosas. The dollops are now thorough streaks on the empty plate. They set the tall flutes before us.
Through mid-day, we explore a winding trail on the far north side of the cliff. To our surprise, it empties out into a small inlet where several dogs walk people around on leashes. We sit on a rock and watch the water rush in and out through a hole. It looks like a giant toilet bowl. There is something funny about the dogs leading their owners around. The humans swirling helplessly in the drink, hanging on for dear life as their dogs stalk invisible prey beneath the water.
As if answering the dogs' prayers, something does come up from the swirling water. Three heads emerge, gasping for air. It's a teenaged boy and girl and an older man. The man wears a bright floral shirt but the two kids are both dressed in mismatched layers of grey clothing. My husband spring to actions, tearing off his shirt and pants, and dives into the water. I stand, helpless, at the edge of the rock.
"Be careful!" I warn.
He's already pulled them in the shallow water. Where did they come from? How did we not see them? He asks them a second time, but their faces are lost; searching. They don't answer, but they appear to know each other.
"We're okay," says the man. He gazes gratefully at us, but he doesn't address us any more. Instead, he leans around to his two companions.
"It's what I thought," he tells the kids. "We're here. We made it."
My husband backs off, still staring at them, and slips his arm around me. Neither of us know what to think. This does not happen in Sun Town, not ever.
We all walk back through the trail to the beach, where we sit and gaze out at the ships and try to calm down. The man and the kids are nowhere to be found. My husband puts music out tiny speakers and we sit, listening to music and sporadic dialogues of passersby. An elderly couple ambles down toward the water hauling five sea doodles, two inflatable rafts, a few half inflated beach balls and a gaggle of grandchildren. I'm starting to feel normal again.
"I want to be that couple!" I say, gazing approvingly at them.
"I think we already are." he retorts. I tap his arm playfully and kiss him on the cheek.
Sun Town, Backyard BBQ 7:37 pm -
"My friend, how long has it been? Too long." I hold up the bottle and let the setting sun glint through it. Sparkling amber.
"Are you talking to me or the beer?" Roscoe laughs.
"This tastes a bit like smoked mesquite." I say. "Is it supposed to?"
"It's a Porter." says Roscoe. "Depends on how many you had."
His kids play in the large backyard, climbing on that new swing set Roscoe got last Summer. The lawn is filled with people and the soft air of twilight. It's extraordinary and it never ceases to amaze me. I've been in Sun Town all my life and I still can't get over the way that light descends after the sacred sun has disappeared. It feels like passing down through a rainbow, down through into a golden dusk.
"Meat's on." calls Jude. "I got me ten salmon steaks, a few dogs, and the prime cuts are in the cooler." He motions for his wife to get 'em out, but she's busy telling their kids not to jump over the fence into the neighbor's yard.
I get up to help Jude and my head swims pleasantly. I also get a strange sensation in my hands that I haven't felt in a long time. I feel a bit unsteady. I know what's coming. We haven't seen any in so long, I think. They're coming, and I'll have to guide them.
"Shit, wasn't that your first one?" asks Roscoe. He has no idea what I'm about to do.. he just sees me almost lose my balance. "I want your tolerance." he goes on.
I bring out the cuts of meat and we slap 'em down on the grill, one by one. It's almost time for me to go. The light is fading to where the coals illuminate the grass to the side of the cooler, a kind of flickering red phantom along the ground. The kids have wandered back to the porch and are seated around the table, pounding their fists and bickering with each other. I don't want to be anywhere else, but I have to go, or they'll be lost.
The pine trees at the edges of the yard are only looming silhouettes now. They remind me of the other guardians, the ones in Sun Town's lore, those giants that used to stand watch and protect us from Rain Town. There's no need for Guardians any longer, but as I gaze up at the trees I wonder if there is anything we need guarding from.
I'm perfectly happy just sitting in the glow of the fire, surrounded by friends, but I force myself to stand and head toward the edge of the yard. I shouldn't feel restless, but I do. I haven't played Guardian in so long.
The shadows of the trees envelope me. The wood of the backyard fence is barely discernible in the darkness. There is something beyond it; it looks yellow and grey, something and charged with electricity. It looks even more dangerous than I remember.
Rain Town, Monty's Place, 2:30 pm
The Price is Right and Phil Donahue air back to back. Monty reaches for the bourbon and gets cigarette ash on his fingers. He wipes it off and takes a drink, and throttles his newspaper until it opens full spread on his lap. He tosses every section except for Sports.
"SJS picks Arizona assistant to replace Morrison." he reads aloud. "Why'd they pick that son of a bitch?"
Monty's living space is simple - a front door opening to a kitchenette, dining area and living room, then off to the right, a long hallway, at the end of which are two rooms. The room on the left is a bedroom; dank, covered in piles of newspaper. The room on the right is Monty's den, the place where he writes and thinks and drinks.
The air in Rain Town has gone grey with another acid squall. He sees it through the raised shade - grey bushes, grey flats, grey sidewalks. He hears - faintly - the hum of cars outside. The degraded vehicles and buildings are all mottled with scars from the poisoned clouds overhead. This is the place where Monty finds himself, comforts himself.
His wife smokes and drinks wine in the front room. She plays solitaire and has been yelling at him for over an hour, but he can't hear her. He's too lost in thought, too weighed down by the effort it takes to quell his murderous instincts. She screeches at him like a banshee. He hates her. He resents her. He wishes she would just go away.
He spies two kids in protective rain cloaks streaking past the window, and it reminds him that his daughter needs picking up from school.
"Bonnie..." he mumbles. His voice isn't loud enough. Fuck. He has to scream to get her attention. "Bon!" he roars, his unshaven jowls trembling. "Sara's at school! Go get her!"
Bonnie doesn't hear Monty because she is also screaming at him. They both scream for a long time, neither one hearing the other, and all the while no one picks Sara up from school. She waits out there, in the rain, but neither of them are sober enough to leave the house. Monty expects a neighbor will bring Sara in at some point. She's such a pain in the ass. Damn kids always expect what they haven't earned.
Bonnie leans against his door. She's been there for a while and, waving the empty bottle of jack around above her head. I drank it all, so fucking what, he bleats. Go get some more. You can drive, he complains. You can drive. Leave me alone. She wheels around and flicks off the light switch. Good, the dark, he thinks. Don't come all the way down this hall again, he thinks bitterly. Wheel of Fortune is on.
Sara still hasn't come home, but Monty is focused on more pressing issues: the ice in his bourbon glass has melted.
Rain Town, Small Apartment, 1:30 pm
I wake up in a thick sweat, as if coming out of a nightmare. I'm overheated and pulled down by fatigue. My upper back kills me. On wasted afternoons like this, she sun comes out in Rain Town, but it's a sickly light the color of a urine stain. The window is covered in foil and newspaper but the light streams through a crack in the center. It must be close to 100 degrees outside. It's not much cooler in here.
I overslept again. I can't wake up. I can't bring myself to go outside. Not even the shower helps. I look out through the window and hear squeals through the acrid air. I've missed it. I get that rare feeling in my chest, that brief sense that there is something more outside, something waiting for me. The feeling happens so rarely, and I wish it never came to me. When it does I think I want to die, because in just those moments, I see another place, somewhere I need to be, and I can't bear the thought that this is it, this is all.
I hear the sound of televised basketball from the front room. The loud buzzer signifies the end of a quarter, then the heavy buzz of the crowd, and the commentators droning on.
Brittle newspaper adorns all the windows. The faintest light comes through but the only real light comes from the tube television.
"About time you got up." my mother says. The tall bottle next to her is already warmed over. "Get me a cold one, will ya?" she mumbles.
"Can I go outside?" I ask.
"You may not."
She observes me coldly.
"When will you learn? The rain is acid, that sun is poison, you know it. You stay in cause you're smart. The others are sheep. They don't listen to the warnings. You wanna die like them?"
I turn to head back to the room, into my dark cube where the world outside is a faint memory, and I consider the benefits of this long, safe life. I consider them, and I reject them. The newspaper on the wall shows stories from years ago, from before I was born. The sick feeling hits my gut and I draw back my fist and hit it against the closed window in frustration and desperation.
To my shock, the window bursts out and the sound of shattered glass pierces the air. I'm halfway out the window, my arm caught on a jagged shard. The rain drizzle hits my arm but it doesn't feel like acid; it soothes.
Mother didn't hear the glass break. No one hears anything that others do in Rain town. We're all too yanked down into our misery here. There are no other places to go. I pull my arm away and knock back the remaining shards, and I climb over and outside. The air is still sick yellow. It's so hot. My gut still lurches but I press on over the sidewalk. I count the drops in the still light rain.
There is a beat; a measure, between the drops. If I just step between them at the right moment, that moment my heart fills before the despair comes and drains it again. I steady myself, and the blood from my arm falls to the pavement. I stand still and count the drops. Count them again. That feeling comes again. It's here, and I step through, and the air goes from yellow to blue....
Never the Twain Shall Meet
"Sara, you gonna be okay waiting there by yourself?" my teacher asks.
Mum and dad are late picking me up again. They bought me these protecting clothes for the rain, but mine are cheaper than everyone else's. The rain that hurts is coming, and there's just this one bus stop between me and it. Usually Mum comes by now, and she usually complains about dad all the way home. Whenever I get home from school, dad is always quiet, in the dark, in the back of our house. Mum says to leave him alone so I do.
I look up at the sky to check for the rain. I know it is coming. Up in the sky I see this big color, like a paint brush just moved from left to right and opened up the clouds. Usually the sky is yellow back there, but today it is blue. It looks like nothing I know.
The drops come then, steady and messy, ruining the ground with their little hisses when they hit the pavement. I'm still looking up at that blue. It's like a window has opened somewhere and calls me to step through. So I do. I step out from under the bus stop and instead of hurting me, the acid rain soothes. I know to count the drops, so I do, one two three. It's like dancing, one two three. Stepping and stepping and that little blue paint line in the sky is the whole sky, it's all above. Then it's all around. Then it's in my eyes. Underwater, no air.
When I find air, I am in a big bowl of water. It's shallow and high, and colorful rocks are all around. Some people looks down at us, and one of them jumps in, and the lady shouts "be careful!"
I notice a boy, with us in the water. He climbs out with us. I know him... I don't know him. He's here with me, and he looks so familiar.
"We're okay." the man tells us. I instantly trust him. Something about the air here makes me not worried. The boy nods.
There is so much color here. The boy is shivering and wet, like me. His arm bleeds a bright red unlike anything I have ever seen. I feel bad for him, but I can't look away from the red.
"It's what I thought." the man tells us. He looks relieved. "We're here. We made it."
The boy and I look back to each other. I'm not scared all of a sudden. Everything is different, even the blue sky above. The beach is vast and white and the buildings beyond shine in impossible light, but the boy, he's... like me, somehow. Hope wells up in me so quickly that I can barely contain it.