by Michael King
The downside to being an optimist is that I generally have to step outside to discover it’s raining, and, this morning, I’m fresh out of seconds. Grimacing, I survey the scene and press on. Getting all pissed off won’t make the sun come out, I coax myself, and I’m right: I get pissed, and the rain presides.
New York rain is misty and eternal, falling gently enough that I always believe I might make it a few blocks without getting too wet. By Sixth Avenue, my hair has surrendered, streams of water dancing their way down my forehead. I walk faster, dodge umbrellas and judgmental glances, turn my music up.
I catch my reflection and realize I make the exact same rain face as my mom. I think of home and feel every inch of the eight hundred miles between us.
Finally, I arrive. My jacket is soaked through, my hands are frozen, and the receptionist looks up. “Oh my God,” she says, eyes wide.
“Yeah,” I shrug, “I think it’s about to start raining.”
By the time I make it back home, my clothes are soaked through a second time, and I am decidedly done with the day. I peel off my jacket, hanging it on a hook, toss my damp socks into the hamper, pull on a hoodie and shorts, and frown at my apartment.
I am one man, living on his own, but I will dirty every single dish in my home before I decide to do the dishes. As of now, they all gape at me from the living room, tucked beside the couch, clustered near the TV, a tiny obstacle course of glasses and forks and bowls. With a dramatic sigh, I start taking laps between the living room and kitchen sink.
Warm water and suds have the opposite effect of the rain on my skin, and soon I am energized. I dry the dishes and put them back in the cabinets, wander back in the living room and gather up a week’s worth of discarded socks, belts, T-shirts. I wipe out the bathroom sink, take the trash, sweep the floor, fold up my blankets.
I finish, my world rearranged in a matter of an hour or so, and take it all in for a moment: Why is it I ever let myself believe the mess is too sprawling to be unmade?
I’m on my own, but I’m feeling social, and my phone is the evidence. On Twitter, I’ve made a friend in D.C. who says he’ll show me around when I visit. I’m joking with my sister on Snapchat about my lunch (PB&J and broccoli, she says, is a gross meal.)
I’m playing a video game, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, and I’m strategizing my way through this story’s final battle. “Good job, Caspar,” I say out loud to a character who managed to dodge a lethal hit. He does it again fifteen seconds later and punches the attacker right off her pegasus. “Coming through like a boss!”
I finish, watch with wide eyes a cutscene of Edelgard and Byleth delivering a final blow to the dragon, and put the Switch to sleep. I stand up, glance back, and discover it’s stopped raining after all.
Embarking outside, gym bag slung over my shoulder, my mind is busy with news headlines: liars aren’t being held accountable, courts are gathered to decide whether queer people are actually people. I open my phone, post to Facebook, post to Twitter. The rain might have subsided, but I’m still trying to push some light back into the world.
Death by a Thousand Cuts plays through my headphones, and I’m convinced Taylor Swift has the blueprint to my heart. Hopefulness, sorrow stretching deep down to the bone, sadness lingering long after the mind has deemed it time to move on.
It plays through one and a half times by the time I arrive.
I get home, grab my coffee cup and computer, and make my way back to the Starbucks across the street. The barista recognizes me, takes my cup and shakes off my payment, and I smile. This big, bad city isn’t so cold after all.
For months, I haven’t been sure what to write. I’ve got twenty-five drafts, beginnings of things I’m trying to say, but something has blocked the pipes. What is it, I wonder, I’m trying to say? I type and type and type, and I’m not sure I’ve got a clue what I mean.
But I’m living it, this story, and I need to stay practiced in telling it truthfully. These are days of wild hope, indeed, but also of despair and rainfall and stubborn steps ahead. Lately, I’m at a loss for exactly what mountain it is I’m hoping to climb.
I don’t know, but I know one day I’ll want to remember the way the world looked here, now, amidst the mundane miracle.