A Wistful Storm

By: Lillian Flood

In all her many years, the woman did not think she ever witnessed anything as ugly as rain. It wasn’t just the way it stuck to the ground, leaving muddy piles all over the city, littering the sidewalks with grime and built-up trash. No, what truly made her despise the stormy weather was the way it made her feel. It was such unworldly emptiness that captivated her, as if lightning had struck her directly in the chest. Just like it did on the streets outside, it would stay with her, the hollowness eating up her heart until the sun made rays of light through the clouds and she was able to breathe again.

How nobody else seemed to reciprocate such passionate feelings was beyond her. Many of her loved ones would dismiss her with a wave, scoffing that she could think such a pessimistic thing.

“You need to learn to appreciate the Earth more,” her mother had once said, though it held no truth. The woman loved Earth and all it contained. It was just that, when she looked at the raindrops falling down the window of her car, she could see glimpses of a time when he was still around. When their silhouettes would cast dark shadows against the tiny window in her kitchen. When the radio would play some absurdly silly ’70s song that fit the moment just right.

Forever ago — which actually wasn’t forever ago — the thought of reminiscing didn’t hurt as bad. But maybe because he was still sleeping next to her, his hair still stuck in her shower drain, his clothes still making a pile in the corner of her room. Maybe it’s because, as she grew old, she found it difficult to picture the slope of his nose, the little curls of his hair, the birthmark on his left bicep. Maybe it’s because you can never see the end coming, even if your hands are outstretched and eyes are wide.

After a while, she confined herself indoors, closing the blinds as the sound of raindrops made constant noise outside the walls of her apartment.

She stayed like this for half a year, each day a new weight. Some of this was spent in solitude; the rest was poor efforts at fake smiles and redundant inside jokes. One spring afternoon when winter felt impossibly distant, her friend came over, a coffee in one hand, an umbrella in the other. Without any greeting, any acknowledgment, she pointed to the window and, very solemnly, said, “It’s raining.”

The woman looked towards the sky and nodded. “I can see.”

“Your window is still open.”

The woman’s eyes widened. They were standing in the living room, by the largest of her windows. And her friend was right — without her even realizing, there had been a downpour in the weather, and slight drops had found their way into the interior of the apartment.

Her heart hurt. She rushed over, shutting the window loudly, and gave her friend a look. They were silent and still for a few moments before one of them sighed — the woman wasn’t sure who — and her friend finally moved to shake her umbrella out near the front door.

Later, when she couldn’t sleep at night, the woman realized her heart didn’t hurt from the pain of before, or the thought of him. She hurt because, for the first time in months, she had forgotten what it felt like for him to leave.

She found that while she forgot the stubble on his jaw, the tension in his shoulders, she also forgot the sobbing after days of nothing. The rage she felt when she repeated the story to her friends and family. The sound the door made when he shut it for the last time.

The unanswered phone calls. The opened texts.

The way his voice caught when he said goodbye.

She had spent minutes, hours, days trying to find a way to be the person “after.” After he left. After things changed. After her heart broke. She didn’t know if she could handle waking up one day and just simply being fine. The woman had gotten so used to the pain, the way it left her eyes droopy and her fingers nervous, that she had allowed it to consume her.

They told you that love was worth everything, that if you had to choose something in life, choose love. But what was love if you lost yourself in the process? The woman didn’t know. So she continued to dread the rain and all of its what-if questions. Some memories were best left ignored.