Chukwukwe Eugenia Adaku
“Rain, rain, go away; come again some other day!” I heard a small, tow-headed boy shouting from the top of the playground slide as droplets of water began to fall. I observed what I presumed to be his mother quickly stuff her laptop into an expensive- looking leather case before she stood up and called to the child to come down and avoid the rain. I continued on my way through the park, undeterred by the dampening weather. I felt a stiff breeze curl around me and I shivered momentarily. I readjusted
my folded arms more tightly around my chest and walked on.
I looked about at the park, how it was mostly devoid of activity and bustle, and what few patrons were present were hurriedly gathering their things and preparing to depart as the drip-drop trickles from the sky gathered with a steady crescendo and the rain began to fall hard and fast. I heard the little boy scream in fascinated delight as he began to be soaked in the rain, and the woman with the laptop grabbed him by the hand and more urgently pulled him away to the safety of their silver SUV parked nearby. Gritting my teeth, I shuffled along and wiped some droplets from my eyes, hoping to clear my suddenly blurring vision. It proved unsuccessful
and I had to squint to prevent myself from tumbling over the roots that wound and twisted along the path in front of me.
A crash of thunder rumbled in the distance and seemed to warn me of continuing on my way, but such caution went unheeded: I stumbled along on a mission of blind intention. A park bench remained fixed in the soggy dirt ahead of me, so I approached to sit and think. It became apparent after some minutes that I was incapable of latching on to any one thought or idea; my mind seemed as cloudy and turbulent as the inclement weather around me. I sat staring straight ahead of me, focusing on nothing but the water spilling down my cheeks, my hands clenched tightly together in my lap. One lean rivulet trickled down my right cheek and slipped into the creases around my lips, and a reflex caused me to wipe it away with my tongue. It was oddly salient and warm, and I realized I was crying. And spontaneously, the downpour from the skies became secondary to the flood of sorrow and misery that escaped me in heaving gasps.
I shuddered, not from the cold or the damp but from something internal, something that wrapped itself around me like an ominous shroud, suffocating me from the inside out. I clutched at my stomach as sobs wrenched at my throat and spluttered out with a deep, guttural sound that was reminiscent of some tortured beast in its death throes. I covered my face in my hands and felt my warm breath combine with the wetness of my tear- and rain-washed hands as I tried to suppress this reaction, tried to cover it up and reel it back in. My
chest tightened and I felt a weight drop into my stomach, cold and solid like a steel ball. I retched but managed to contain myself, pushed my drenched bangs from my eyes that fell across my face when I had lurched forward, and watched as my leg pumped up and down, my foot tapping the muddied ground and my knee bouncing in a
rhythmic response–the only control I could exert at the moment.
Another loud crash of thunder, this time closer, jarred me and caused me to sit bolt upright, tears still streaming down my flushed cheeks, my lungs still sucking weakly for air. I looked around and saw not one living thing around me: no birds nesting in the trees; no squirrels darting about, poking into holes for food scraps or scurrying into trees on a whim; no children cavorting and
bounding, giggling and chortling as a group played a game with no rules, yet all of them understanding exactly how to play; no couples jogging hand-in- hand through the rain because their idea of romance is staying inside a coffee shop and complaining about the weather instead of walking briskly through a storm, laughing before they stop to experience the electrifying thrill of a kiss in the wet and cold. I looked into a puddle forming around the bench and saw a distorted, rippling image of a pitiful,
miserable man. His tear-streaked cheeks, his patchy and scraggly stubble, his pale but piercing blue eyes, his ruddy nose, all greeted my gaze with contemptible sorrow. What did this man have to feel sorry about? What could possibly be so horrendous in his life that he could afford to wallow in his grief and sadness, why couldn’t he get a grip and be a man, suck it up and focus on something other than his thoughts of what’s happening to me? And as I peered at this man, disgusted and bitter, I wiped a tear from my eye and sniffled, and noticed
he did the same.
I was staring at my own reflection, and hating myself. I was shocked into stillness for a moment, not realizing that I was capable of such self- loathing, distraught that this figure who disturbed my thoughts was more than just my mirror image: he was me. I stomped on the puddle and cried out in rage, disrupting the pooling water and sending waves dancing out from the point of impact. Anger consumed me, and replaced my sadness. I couldn’t believe that I was allowing myself to feel this way, to view my life this way. Does love really corrupt the heart so much, weaken it so severely, transform those it touches so drastically? No, it doesn’t , I thought. It’s not your heart that’s weak; it’s your mind.
You haven’t given up hope, you haven’t written off
anything. You’ve clung to it, refused to let go. Cowardly men turn away and run from heartache; foolish men ignore it and will let it to pass; arrogant men embrace it and use it to breed spite; but strong men, good and brave and kind and true men, they embrace it. They take heartache like a bodyguard takes a bullet, with grim purpose and without complaint. They take their heartache and sit beside it, allow it to wash over them without it consuming them. They reach inside of it and pull out its essence–love. And they take that love and nurture it, raise it up from its injured state and imbue it with desire and hope. They restore it to health and swallow it again, feeling its strength and resilience with new vigor, with new life. And with that injection of hope, strong men don’t just move on, no. They fight to overcome any lingering doubts or worries and they soldier on, willing themselves to return to the battlefield to claim their prize. And these truly strong men march right back to where they left, from the point of wounded pride and confusion and return with dignity and confidence, guided by their glowing beacon of hopeful love. Overcome your mental reservations, because your heart is strong. Don’t give up on what you have, ever.
The tears had stopped, my breathing returned to normal. My fists were clenched and my jaw grimly set, and I relaxed both. My foot still tapped the damp earth, but its speed had decreased to match the tempo of my beating heart, now returned to its slow resting beat. Slowly, I crouched and pushed off from the bench, standing up.
I tilted my head skyward, eyes gently shut, hair plastered against my forehead. The rain washed down my face and neck, invading the space between my collar and spine and dripping all the way down my back. I breathed in deeply and exhaled with intention, blowing a few droplets that had accumulated off my upper lip. I stood like this
for a few minutes, soaking my clothes but not my soul, feeling the cool yet oddly soothing rain cleanse my fevered body. As the rain slowed and began to dwindle to just a few droplets, I willed my eyes open and saw that the thunderclouds nearby had passed, moved towards the city from which I had left an hour ago. I blinked, shaking my shaggy head to clear it of water, and listened to the soft chirping of a single bird. I turned around and
looked down the mottled path from which I had come. Without thinking, without planning, I turned and started jogging back down the trail, dodging the roots that snapped at my ankles and attempted to bind my feet. It turned into a slow trot, then a full- on run. I hurried along because suddenly, alacrity returned to my step, the fire inside me swelling up unexpectedly. My feet traveled faster, bounding through puddles, ignoring the water that splashed up around me–I was already dripping with water. I didn’t know what exactly I would say once I got
there, but it didn’t matter, because all I knew is that I had to go back. I knew that I had something to say, I just didn’t know how. I hoped that whatever urgent force was propelling my along would be able to lend me eloquence as well. I just had to keep running, because I missed him already.