“I love the rain,” she conceded. A slight air of hope lingered on her voice as though her confession would alter time. “Actually, that’s only half true. I like the sound of rain. I hate when things are wet. I can’t stand being cold.” She held her elbows and faked a shiver. She was a poor actor. “But you know how there’s that roar? Like a rumble on the verge of thunder? I like that. It always brings up old memories from such simpler times.”
I raised an eyebrow, theoretically, as I could only consider how someone so inexperienced could make such a reference. “Simpler times?”
Pierced lips flip into clever smiles. Eyes narrow to reveal hidden erudition. Secret talents would’ve unfolded from her face like a piece of origami if only she had an original thought in her head. “Do you remember your childhood?” Her pretence mimicked insight, but I was curious about what memories she spoke.
So I nodded.
“I don’t,” she said. “I feel like I’ve always been a grown-up. Like I’ve always understood, you know?”
I didn’t believe she never remembered being a child. Not really. Everyone remembers the innocence of childhood. It was sad that she feigned such a thing. How could she even believe such a thing? I would’ve all but stopped her there if it weren’t for my similar feelings for rain. And, naturally, an innate necessity to watch helplessly and hopefully as a disaster unfolds. I had to press her. What would she lie about next?
“Nothing has changed since I learned who I was. I think I was six or seven. But nothing has really changed. It’s still the same voice in my head. But you see,” she plied her words upon me like layers of lace and arsenic, “whenever it rained, like torrential rain, like it does when you wonder if it’ll storm all night – whenever I’d hear that torrent come down I’d feel like it could be the end. I always remember that feeling.”
“The end of what?” It was a tricky question. I was baiting her, but I had to see how far she was willing to go.
“Just the end of life as I knew it. That maybe something in this great big world would change. That I would wake up in the morning after seas of rain and everything would be washed away.” She walked toward the window and looked into the night. “I would have to re-learn to live in a whole new land. Floods and devastation would undo civilization and then I’d have to carve out an existence in an apocalyptic world. Like in Mad Max or Red Dawn. I don’t know why I thought that way. Maybe I just always thought that this isn’t the way things are supposed to be and maybe rain would save us from it. Or maybe it was too many late night movies.”
Her reflection in the window was ghostly. Streams of water flowed from the broken eaves making her face seem like a sad and far away painting. I knew then, looking at her, that she believed each word she said.
I felt bad for her. The feelings she spoke of, all people feel, yet she carried them like they were her weight to bear, as foolish people do. “The sound of rain makes you think we need to be saved? From ourselves?” And then I added, dripping in sarcasm, “And water will cleanse us of our sins?”
“Not sins. Oh God no. I don’t believe in some kind of supreme being.” She laughed awkwardly. “You make it sound like I’m some kind of zealot.”
It was a big word for her.
“The point I’m trying to make is when I was young I disagreed with the way the world was and I used to dream that something would come and force us to change everything. I believed I would live to see such times.”
“And so,” I began, “You hear the rain outside and you envision the destruction of the world?”
“No.” She shook her head and returned to the window. “When I hear the rain outside, now, I have a feeling that it’s all wrong.” She tuned and looked at me. “I feel how people like you knowingly confuse what is truly complicated with what is truly simple because it’s easier than admitting there’s something you can’t understand. I think how knowledge can lead one just as far astray as ignorance. I don’t see the world being destroyed. I feel there’s nothing here to keep.”
Her personal attack on people like me startled me and smarted. It didn’t seem fair, to pit me against the architects of the past, the masters who designed and built the intrinsic labyrinth we navigate every day of our waking lives. I frowned. “Feelings are very different than thoughts and knowledge,” I chided. Deep down I wished the rain would stop.
“I don’t mean to be cruel,” she said upon seeing my face. “It’s only a feeling I have when it rains. I have a much different feeling when the wind blows or the sun shines or when snow is falling at Christmas. But you don’t understand everything. I don’t think you understand me.”
She came over and sat beside me, picking up my hands with her tiny cold fingers. “Memories are funny things. They’re so one-sided. Life is so much messier and complicated now then when I was a child. If I was seven I would only remember a glimpse out the window, a recollection of how heavy the rain was and how I felt about who was here. But now, because I’m older and have more knowledge, this moment will include facts and ruminations. And some day I might even reconsider tonight, for maybe I will learn something more and it will change everything I know.”
If only she did know, for in that very moment I fell out of love with her. It wasn’t the feelings or the hope that lingered on her vacant and sententious words, or the idea that she felt there was nothing in this world worth keeping. I could live with that. I have always lived with that. We have all continued to live with that. No. It was the credulous way in which someone so inconsequential and impressionable now looked down on me. It was because in that instant she changed. In that instant she became a know-it-all. And I – I became worthy of her pity.
I got up and walked toward the door, only taking a short breath before grasping the handle and opening it.
“Where are you going?” she asked, shock trailing off her tongue.
I passed through the threshold knowing I would never return. “Into the storm,” I said, imparting upon her one more experience. Then I stepped into the cold wetness, walking away from what was once bright and clear, but with just a single idea became dull, sad and just a memory.