The Rainwalker


(the following was written while listening to Closer to the Edge by Yes)

When you live in Los Angeles and you tell people you walked somewhere, they look at you like you just told them you own five copies of Mein Kampf, one of which is signed.

“Why?” Is almost always their first question.

“Are you okay?” People sometimes ask, as if you something might have slain you while you perambulated around the city.

“Are you crazy?” Still others say.

L.A. is a city of cars. You need one of two things to get around: a vehicle or a lot of extra time. A ten minute car trip can take an hour on the bus.

The buses smell. The people on the buses smell, but in a different way then the bus. The places where you wait for the buses smell, but in a way other than the other two, so that on any different bus trip you have to put up with at least three different kinds of smells, all different, but all similarly colored in varying shades of urine and body odor.

They’re all bad.

So when my registration expired and I was waiting for my tax returns to re-register my car, I decided to not ride the bus, but to walk places. I had become very hermit-like and inactive over the winter months. This happened because I wrote a novel (I’m now in the process of revising it and preparing to send queries to agencies!) and any free time I had not writing a novel was spent sleeping, working, or feeling guilty about not working on my novel.

I was fat and happy so I decided I needed to be unhappy and thin. I would walk to work. It was two miles. Then I’d walk back from work. That was also two miles. All in all, I would walk four miles every day, which I judged to be a sufficient amount of exercise for someone who never exercises.

The last time I walked to work Julian, a co-worker complemented me on how tan I had become. “You look great!” He said. “What’s your secret?”

“Oh, you know,” I lied, “I’m just a creature of the outdoors, really.”

He gave me a shifty look.

Ah, my co-workers. Thou knowest me too well.

“My car broke down so I’m walking to work.”

“Oh,” Julian said, “Why?”

The city is different when you walk. You catch the breeze, the smells, the sounds. You get to witness first hand the furtive looks people give you as you pass them; the quick, downward glances that practically beg you not to murder them.

“Oh, please,” their eyes beseech, “take whatever you want, stranger walking beside me, just don’t take my life.”

I don’t look frightening. I have long hair and wear all black, but so do lots of people. Maybe I achieve alpha street villain status because I sing along to folk music and David Bowie as I walk down the street. Maybe that’s something only crazy people do.

I waited for my refund and I walked to work. I loved it. It gave me a break form writing that I didn’t have to feel guilty about. Sure, I had to leave an hour early and get home an hour late, but that didn’t matter. The stress evaporated from my pores as I walked. It floated up above the power lines and past the clouds. It wafted into the stratosphere and drifted away, eventually becoming not a thing. Nothing at all.

One day it rained.

It was a drizzle. They would have said it was spitting if I was in London.

I wasn’t, so everyone said it was raining. They warned each other to drive safely and, god forbid, no matter what you do, don’t go outside unless it’s absolutely necessarily.

I’ve been all over the world and I’ve never met people that could be so blase about terrifying natural disasters like Earthquakes, sometimes even bragging about how they slept through it.

For a native Californian, I suppose, water is a thing that stays in the sea or comes out of sprinklers. Anything else is just unnatural, proof that the spirits are displeased with us.

The rain doesn’t scare me. I’m was born in Oklahoma, a place where tornadoes wipe out whole towns.

I grew up in Florida, where the rainfall in July would bust California’s drought. I’ve swam in the rain. I’ve drank in the rain. I’ve walked outside in the eye of a hurricane and looked up at the solid black walls of cloud and wind and lightning and water and I’ve laughed, not at the storm, not in any mean way, but just at how utterly bizarre it all was.

I’ve been on top of a mountain on the Appalachian trail during a thunderstorm. Lightning was striking so close that I thought my ears would split. There was so much electricity in the air that all of my body hair was standing at varying degrees of attention. My Dad and I avoided stepping in puddles for fear of getting blasted.

You’re supposed to lay down in lightning storms. You dot this so your less of an attractive conduit for the lightening. I remember my dad looking at the flooded trail as the storm started and saying “Well, we’ll just have to keep going. We can’t lay down because if lightning strikes any of this water, it’ll kill us.”

So we walked up a side of the mountain in the lightning and the rain.

So I decided to walk to work in a drizzle.

Everything is different in the rain. It’s darker, not just because clouds block the sun, but also because the water stains everything it touches a darker hue of whatever it was before.

There’s a smell in the air. It only happens right after a rain, or during the first rain in several days. It’s a crisp smell, a clean smell. The smell is amplified in Los Angeles. The air is so dirty that when the rain knocks some of the dust and smog away it smells like you’ve been transported somewhere else all together.

I put on Led Zeppelin’s “The Rain Song” and walked to work.

It was wonderful. It was the best walk I had in a long time.

“Did you catch a ride?” Steven asked me when I got to work.

“No.” I said wetly. His eyes widened.

“You walked?”

“Yeah. It was nice.”

He blinked. “But it’s raining.”

“Yeah.”

“And you walked.”

“That’s right.”

“Why?”

I could hear the rain hitting the skylight thirty feet above me. The pattern was soothing in its irregularity.

The thing about rain is that it falls all over the place. It doesn’t aim. It just hits a bunch of spots in the concrete. When it hits, it makes them darker, makes them smell fresh, makes them more interesting.

I ran a cross country race in the rain about ten years ago. It was at the park in the Vineyards. It was raining so hard that when I tried to breath through my mouth my lungs would fill up with water and I would have to cough it all up. I had really bad allergies and sinus problems back then so I couldn’t breath through my nose.

I coughed up a lot of water that day.

I was near the back of the race. All the grass was already obliterated. Instead of a well marked path, there was just a river of mud. There was a canal to my right that was about to overflow, and I wondered what would happen to the alligators that lived in it when the canal suddenly became the whole park.

Back in college, I walked in the freezing rain over the bridge into Beeson woods. I made the mistake of betting against the weather and showing up to German lab. I couldn’t afford to miss anymore. I had arrived just as Caitlyn was leaving. “Haven’t you heard?” She asked me. “Classes are cancelled. It’s not safe to drive.”

It wasn’t safe to walk either. I lost traction halfway down the bridge and almost slid into the ravine over which the bridge spanned. I managed to grab the sign that said welcome to Beeson Woods, and vowed to never leave my dorm again if it was twenty eight degrees and raining.

I walked in the rain down Tottenham Court Road with my friend Erich. We popped into a pub whose name escapes me in order to rewrite his whole screenplay. We got drunk on some fine English beer and by god we did it.I still remember laughing all the way home. I turned up my collar against the stiff wind and all that was in my mind was a cup of Earl Grey and some toast with Nutella and butter.

I walked in the rain on my last day in Florida. My flight had been delayed because of the storm. It was a short walk, just down the driveway to my Dad’s Nissan pickup truck. The driveway was covered in old shells we had brought in years ago. They would always get stuck between the treads in your shoes so that you’d click across our cheap tile floor.

I stopped outside the door and stood in the rain. My dad was doing something in the house. He’s notoriously hard to get going, but once he’s ready everyone else better be, too.

I stared down the driveway, out to Golden Gate drive. I looked over the palm trees and the pines. I remembered all the hot summers I spent walking in between them with a broom to knock down the plate-sized banana spiders who lived in our yard. I didn’t want them to ambush me when I mowed the lawn.

I remembered riding the shiny black lawnmower my grandfather bought me. I remembered the sound it made as it tore up pine cones.

I almost exclusively mowed in the afternoon, and I remembered the pretty, yellow-green color the leaves would take as the setting sun blasted through their chlorophyll.

I remembered imagining whole kingdoms in the grass, and wondering what they would think of the mower as it cut the grass.

I remembered sitting at the bottom of the pool with my sister. It was raining, and we watched water drop onto the top of the water. The ripples made the sky look like quicksilver.

I remembered that the next time I came back to Florida the bank would have repossessed that old house and it would probably be torn to shreds.

I stood there and it was raining. It was raining and, for the life of me I couldn’t think of a better send off.

The house might fade. The yard might disappear just like tears in the rain, but I’d remember. We’d all remember the fights and the love and the laughs and the everything all rolled into one glorious feeling.

It’d feel like home.

And the best thing about that feeling is that you can take it anywhere you go. You store it up in a little box and you walk to work in the rain and you bring it with you, because when you meet Steve at work and you tell him you want a latte and he asks you if you walked in the rain and he says why you can lift the box up.

It’s brown and sort of bowed out in the middle.

He asks why and you open up the box and you show him.

You’ll just show him.

You know… in movies and TV whenever someone opens a box and there’s something magical inside it glows gold.

Not this box.

I opened this one, and it was blue. Blue like water.

Blue like tears in the rain.

I had a professor tell me that that line is the sappiest line ever written in film.

You should take Viki’s word for it. She a genius.

It’s not sappy to me, though.

Don’t take my word for it. I’m not a genius.

I’m just a Rainwalker.

And I know exactly what Rutger means.

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A little bit of housekeeping:

I’d like to thank My Messy World for nominating me for a blog award. I’m very bad about responding to people’s awards. There’s actually been a few I didn’t respond to until months later and the person who gave me the award had shut down their blog.

How embarrassing.

I’d been meaning to blog for a while, but my novel keeps eating my soul. Messy World gave me a wonderful excuse to come back.

So thanks for that.

You guys should go check out her (her?) blog.

Anyway, I’ll hopefully be blogging more often soon.

Maybe someone cares about that other than me.

Maybe they don’t.

I guess we’ll find out.

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14 Comments

  1. I hope you don’t mind if I also consider myself a rainwalker. One of my great joys pre-parenthood was a daily walk, no matter the element–snow, rain, searing sunshine. I would walk an hour in the pouring rain, and loved every minute of it. When one takes the time to stand, and feel, REALLY feel…there’s a bit of the divine in that, I think.

    Reply
  2. I thoroughly enjoyed this read. 🙂

    Reply
  3. Funny! Similar attitudes here in San Diego. Walk?? IN THE RAIN???????

    Reply
  4. A wonderful piece. 🙂

    Reply
  5. I’ve got a feeling that I’d get the same reaction from your coworkers. I started walking everywhere when I lived in England where everything is within a stones throw of each other. I’ve also gotten a similar reaction from my mother who finds it odd that I’d walk three miles into town and back. Of course, that pales in comparison to how crazy she perceives me to be for jogging in the rain. I can only imagine what your coworkers would say about that.

    Reply
  6. johnlmalone

     /  March 18, 2016

    an :)excellent piece of writing. I loved it so much I read it twice. thanks for reading my post

    Reply

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