In A Gentle Rain
Author's Note: I've lived in Phoenix for the past almost-eight years, the second year of which (supposedly) started a nine year drought. So. The rain is a fun thing to write about because we experience it so little. Especially because of a record that was almost broken here recently. You'll hear all about it in the story, I'm sure.
It's not easy being a desert rat.
Sure, it's a major perk to have the magic ability to walk barefoot on hot concrete and not give a damn. And to wear t-shirts all year round. But you know, there are some records that get set here that are not meant to be set.
One-hundred-and-forty-two days without rain.
The plants were dying. The clouds teased us, growing dark, then slipping away without even a drop of moisture. My boyfriend was studying Native American religion in one of his classes, and everyone was taking the rain dances seriously. People were washing their cars on an almost daily basis, trying to tempt the irony gods that love to haunt the desert sands.
And then, one night, I woke up in the dark to a loud noise. Rolling over in bed, I rubbed my eyes and pulled the blinds back from the window.
I rubbed my eyes again and double-checked.
No, that was definitely water dripping onto my windowsill, definitely the leaves of the Palo Verde tree outside my window thrashing in a stormy wind.
I sat up straight, suddenly too excited to sleep. The days of nosebleeds and dry skin were finally over! Ignoring the blinking clock by my bed screaming '3:07 AM' in bright red, I jumped up and scrambled to my desk for the phone, punching in the number for my boyfriend's dorm room.
It rang once... twice... three times... I thought for a moment he was going to completely ignore the call, but then he answered:
"Whafuck are you doing?"
"Have you looked out your window yet?"
Well, he was awake enough to call me names. "Dude, Specs, do you even know who you're talking to?"
"Uh, hello. My name is Ricky Schneider, though you probably know me better as Skittery, and I've been your boyfriend for the past, what is it now... two years?"
"I know that, stupid. Why the hell are you calling me at three in the morning?"
"Get up and look out your window."
"Because knowing rain, it won't be around when the sun comes up."
Silence on the other end, then rustling noises. "Holy shit."
"What did I tell you?"
"It's really raining. I can't believe it."
"Now aren't you glad I called at three in the morning?"
"No, but I forgive you." He chuckled softly. "You're just a desert rat, after all."
Which was true, in a way. I'd grown up in Phoenix, while Specs was an out-of-state student from South Carolina. He was used to wet weather and mud; I was used to sunshine and sand (though sadly without the blue oceans that make California tolerable).
"Then go back to sleep, jerkwad. Will I see you later?"
"If you're lucky." He yawned obnoxiously. "If the rain sticks around, we can go hang out in the park."
"Sounds great." I pulled back the blinds again, still ridiculously gleeful at the sight of rain. "Loveyabye."
I beeped my phone off and threw it against the wall, where it fell into a large pile of laundry. I hardly noticed.
Rain is a greater treasure than gold in the desert, and we cherish it when it does pay a visit. You're more likely to see couples walking in the park on a rainy day than a sunny one. No, really. I'm serious. Because rain is just fresh and new and enjoyable. It's better than sunlight.
But maybe I'm just a little biased.
While Specs was a college freshman in a dorm with roommates, I was still a high school senior, living with my family. So my mom insisted that I take my baby sister, Dory, out for lunch, to let her see the surprisingly-still-falling rain.
But I have a special affection for Dory; she's twelve years younger than me, because of my parents' divorce, and also therefore only a half-sister. But she still looks so much like me, and really looks up to me, and I spoil her rotten.
So I took her out for ice cream instead and made her pinky promise not to tell our mother.
We sat outside, and I called Specs and told him to meet us there. Dory was in a good mood, and actually let me wipe her mouth when she missed. She was an odd child; she mixed peach ice cream with mint chip and was gobbling it up like a toddler's ambrosia. And I just watched and laughed at her, hardly touching my own cup of strawberry in the Battle of the Dripping Chin.
"See, this is why I love you so much," Specs commented when he arrived, just in time to see me kiss a smudge of peach from Dory's fingertips. "You're so damn good with kids."
"Don't swear around my sister," I responded absently, giving what was left of my own food to him; he ignored it and shoved his hands in the kangaroo pocket of his faded grey hoodie. "We gotta take her home before we go to the P-A-R-K, okay?" Dory needed to nap and do what kindergarteners consider homework, and letting her know that Specs and I were going to the park would only complicate things and make her cry.
And I hate when my baby sister cries.
He shrugged. "That's fine. Did you drive?"
"We walked. Well. I walked; Dory got carried."
"Heh. Lucky kid."
I rolled my eyes and grabbed the back of Dory's sweater before she ran out into the rain; she was okay under the table's parasol, where she wouldn't get wet, but I had been strictly forbidden from letting her play in the puddles and risk catching a cold.
I stood up and swung my sister over my shoulder, smiling at Specs's smile at her delighted squeals; whoever said girls don't like a little roughhousing once and again was completely wrong. And even though it's kind of, shhh, a bad idea, I kept her on my lap on the short drive to my house. Seatbelt on, of course. Why would Specs carry a child seat in his car? It was the only alternative, and only for not even an eighth of a mile.
We dropped Dory off and drove straight to the nearest park. We weren't surprised to see it full of muddy 'tweens, taking advantage of the one moment where the little kids would be stuck inside, mothers afraid of flu germs, and relived the childhoods they had only left a few years before. Specs and I went straight for the swings, hoods down to enjoy the rain dripping on our heads (though the wetness on the seat of our jeans was not exactly enjoyable), and just swung gently, talking and making fun of the pre-teens. One boy, skinny and tiny with a mess of black hair, tried to show off by jumping for the glider... and slipped from the damp handle and fell flat on his face. Specs and I, as well as his friends, laughed aloud, and he sulked for a moment before deciding there were better things to do, and went to spin on the carousel.
"Ah, youth," I muttered, twisting the chains above my head; my hair was already soaked, and my sweater was starting to cling to my back. Specs chuckled.
"You're still a youth."
"And you're not?"
"I'm in college. College eats your soul. Only youths have souls. Therefore: you are still a youth."
"Who says I have a soul? Maybe something else ate my soul."
"Uh..." I thought about it for a moment, lifting my feet off the ground to spin aimlessly. "I dunno. High school?"
"High school is evil, but not enough so to eat your soul. And stop doing that; you're making me dizzy." He grabbed one of my chains, stopping me so quickly that I fell off the swing, and he laughed. "Well, that was graceful."
"That was muddy! And it hurt!" I sat up and started trying in vain to rid my face and sweater of the thick, gritty mud; mud in the southwest isn't like mud anywhere else. It's not soft and gooey; it's wet dirt. Instead of sucking on your shoes, it takes their imprint and leaves it for others to find later. It still sticks to your clothes, and especially your hair, but it's not as easy to get rid of.
Specs got off his swing and knelt next to me, trying to help brush the mud off, but of course, it didn't work very well. Instead, we resigned ourselves to my dirtiness and stood up, walking away from the playground area and into the grass, down the steep hill to the baseball field. Specs took one hand away from his kangaroo pocket and wrapped it in mine; it was ice cold, but I didn't shake him off. My hand was probably just as cold, and muddy to boot.
We spent a few minutes just running the bases on the field, sliding into them and trying to spray each other with mud. It didn't work very well; we got ourselves muddier than we did each other, but we evened out pretty okay in the end, and went to sit in the dugout for a while.
It was one of those rare dugouts with an actual roof, though the roof wasn't much to go on (old wood with plenty of wholes for water to leak through), and we were already pretty much soaked through to the skin as it was. Specs laughed and took off his glasses; they were dripping, so he shook some water off and replaced them; with his sweater clinging to his body as it was, there was no way it was going to dry off his glasses.
And the sweater was clinging to him quite spectacularly. He'd wrestled in high school, and still worked out regularly, so despite the fact that he was wearing both sweater and t-shirt, I could still see the curve of his biceps, and the flatness of his chest and stomach. He shook the wet out of his hair, fluffing it up in such an adorable way it should have been illegal, then turned to look at me.
And he smiled.
"Stop drooling, Skittery. You're wet enough as it is."
I couldn't help blushing slightly; we'd only been dating for about four or five months, and I was still getting used to his good looks. Explicit good looks. "Please Mother may I go surprise him at his dorm (in the hopes of catching him just out of the shower)" good looks. Scruffy or cleaned up, he was completely gorgeous, and I adored him for it. Don't take me for being shallow; looks aren't all that matters. But they are a nice perk.
A very nice perk.
I got up off the bench and stretched toward the sky, feeling good and wet and cold. It was so refreshing; we'd had a warm winter this year, almost spring-like. Plus, nothing changes color faster than Arizona plant life; what had been brown and dead yesterday was now a lush and inviting green.
Specs came up behind me and put his arms around my waist, leaning his chin on my shoulder. "You're wet."
I couldn't help laughing. "No, seriously? I had no idea."
"Just thought you should know. So you don't catch a cold or anything."
I leaned my head back, tilting it as I moved my hand to his hair. "You're all wet too."
"Yeah, but I don't have a soul so I can't get sick."
"... What does that have to do with anything?"
"You're a dipshit."
"... In a way."
And we both laughed again. I turned to press my chest against his, resting my head on his shoulder and smiling into his neck. The roof of the dugout dripped heavily, but we were both so wet by this point that it didn't matter. The rain made a noise like gentle fingersnaps, and thunder like a timpani rumbled in the distance. Specs tilted my face up and pressed his mouth to mine, and it was different, but in a good way. His lips were as gentle as always, but there was something more interesting about the heavy, clinging sweaters and the thick tendrils of hair between my fingers. He pulled me closer after another distant clap of thunder, and I forgot about the world outside.
But an escape can only last so long. He leaned away, leaving one hand on my cheek, gently stroking my skin with his thumb. I blinked slowly, and he smiled and kissed my forehead.
"This playing in the rain thing was fun. You know. But." He sighed, and I was surprised to see his breath fog. "It's kinda cold. And wet."
I hesitated, still wrapped in his arms and quite content, but then I figured, he had a point.
"You wanna go to my place and watch the South Park movie?"
His face lit up. "That movie has warped my fragile little mind!"
"Oh, that's right. I forgot. You only want me for my body."
I laughed and took his hand again as we stepped out of the dugout and started back up the hill. There were more 'tweens on the playground now, as well as a young couple sitting under the ramada, but Specs still twirled me briefly under his arm before wrapped that same arm around my waist. I leaned against him and sighed contentedly.
One-hundred and forty-two days without rain. A record almost broken.
And it seems almost insignificant, because I'm just happy to be with him.