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When the Rain Came
Spinning. The world had started spinning. I saw a woman, a dancer, dragged gracefully, attempting an arabesque on rippling water. I could feel her growing heavier, as she fought to stay on her axis, trying to leap away, just as her partner would grab her back by her wrist, and entrap her in his arms. She would appear to loose her spine, wilting like a dying flower as her head drifted slowly to touch the ground. A girl, so heavy that her blood could rush to crush her, a drowning in air. But soon the scene started to soften, like pages in water. There was suddenly an anxious, but distinctly human pulse, not quite a drumming, not quite a heart beat. It seemed to be the time when the rain came.
Try hailing a taxi when there are none. My hand was raised in the air, waiting, hailing some ghost cab. I put my hand down to my forehead, checking for something, a fever? A pulse?
The rain was gone. And so were the people.
The city seemed so empty; the sidewalks having flowed like bloodstreams or circuits, guiding life and energy, felt so alone. But, in the wake of the city, after the storm, the cells were separated, dispersed throughout the broken boroughs, and some beyond the membrane of New York. I couldn’t blame them.
As I started walking (I eventually got tired of waiting) I reflected on my morning. I remember waking up to windows covered with constellations of miscellaneous raindrops, the surviving light of the sun shining through them iridescently. From my window, past the constellations, was a rampaged universe.
I remember waking up to a few things: the morning, an empty bed, heartbreak, and the recollection of a dream.
I had woken up and the rain was gone. And so was he. Those were the first things I noticed. The second was that it was so cold, everywhere but the bed. I relished the warmth of my single bed, trying to recapture the womb-like warmth.
Walking alone through the empty and drowned streets of New York, only two things were certain that minute: I was alone and I was inspired.
I tried to add reason to my dream, as a chef would add a missing ingredient to a dish, a flavor or spice, to find the right taste. Was my dream a sad reflection, or bittersweet inspiration?
From that moment, I could only think about the studio, suddenly imagining my dancers, movements terse and poignant; a ballet like an Ernest Hemingway narrative. Dancing was a lot like acting. You pretended to be a feather, while feeling like a stone. A Pas de deux could be performed between two people, looking like the animate poetry of lovers, while wordless to another off-stage. The loveliest expressions would play across the face, so that the audience would never see the piano-tight muscles beneath the chignon.
But it wasn’t hard to understand why I loved to dance. I could pass my pain through the music, transition the fear through every leap, and dispel the helplessness with adrenaline. I could turn nightmares into dreams, and recreate tragedy into beauty.
Again, I was reminded of my dancers, and how the storm affected them. The greatest Hell wasn’t an Inferno, it was the inability to watch and do nothing. I wondered if they were alone, or together in the rain, collecting rain on their eyelashes, like dew on spider webs. I couldn’t help, but worry. Being Head Choreographer was like being Head Swan and a mother. The world could wash around you like water, while you were still expected to be the guiding light, the lighthouse in the brink of a storm Before I left my house, I checked my voicemail. Twenty-three message which translated to twenty-three worried, but secure voices, to twenty-three daughters, and sisters, and partners, safe. Thinking of those messages again, I breathed a sigh of relief.
I keep walking, back in the present, and looked up at the sky, checking for rain again. Know the time at the end of an art class, when everyone’s put their brushes and pastels away, leaving papers in the land of Unfinished and abandoning brushes, until the time they’re wanted again. The tall water glasses stand on their own little surfaces on that paint-spattered table like introverted loners. Their contents are so dyed from the colors of masterpieces they’ve never created, until you’d never know that once they were clean, transparent. It seemed like those glasses had been drained all over New York, staining the city’s streets and buildings until their lines inked away into one dark melancholy mess. Maybe that’s why the people left, so they wouldn’t disappear with the rain.
I wanted to cry. But I couldn’t mourn for my city because it was still alive. Even now, I still its heartbeat, weak, but beating like a premature child. So I shred a few tears, just release, and let the wind wipe them away.
And for a moment, I could feel everything. The streets felt congested again, but this time emulating the weight of people’s hearts. You could still sense the phantom warmth of beds in apartments shared by mothers and daughters, bright umbrellas struggling to escape from people’s hands in the wind, clear calls of people, bayed to be heard just across sidewalks, cries for help, for God, for daddies, and dogs.
But I was also nostalgic to days of June, to cultural festivals, ballets and Broadway shows, and Rockefeller Center with golden Prometheus flying in place, leading the gliding. This was the resonance of the best and worst of time, the storm included, and the streets were unusually empty, but they did not seem to reside with hollow silence of death. Rather, it felt like they were teeming with the essence of an echoing heartbeat, able to be revived.
Even as the leaves beat me unwillingly in the face, as I raced home, I made a simple resolve to myself. I wouldn’t leave, I wouldn’t evacuate. After the storm, I would walk the streets with a new umbrella, strong arms, and supplies to repair the damaged.
As I walked, my resolve became stronger, tough enough to hold myself together, in case. I had fought the storm, and now I would fight the destruction, the carnage, and the depression. But I know I won’t leave the city, as it would only mean giving in and abandoning my roots and myself. I’ll carry a hundred water bottles; cook a thousand meals. A few times, that day, I wished I could do anything to forget, but more than that I wished for the will to do everything to help.
I chuckled, imagining myself as a miniature flesh and blood Statue of Liberty, a human Saint of New York City, carrying a flashlight like a torch, beckoning the hopeless and the hopeful to come out again to their city.
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
I soon found myself standing in front of my apartment building. The mechanized glass doors would have to be pushed open, but I could handle it. The floor beyond the entrance and the lobby would be wet, almost glazed by the water with beautiful touches of sprayed leaves, like glazed candies or mermaid scales. I would enter and smile, but for a while, I just stood outside.
Somehow a light drizzle came, but not an overture to another disaster. It seemed more like a helpful, frenzied mother cleaning up after a destructive and beastly child. The drizzle had sent herself to clear the way of debris and other un-necessaries. I opened my mouth to taste the rain, which never tasted sweeter. The blurred light from the streetlamps in the rain, looked beautifully familiar, like the glow of the Spanish Steps seen from the Piazza de Spagna, through the eye of a focusing camera.
A dandelion, stood in a mire deep enough to sink in, sparsely shielded by spare blades of green. It’d caught my eye. I carefully took hold of the wispy stem, careful not to bruise it, and pulled. A flower covered with snowflakes that never melted, a wishing weed. I only needed a breath. When the seeds were ready to be scattered, the drizzle had began to lighten. I blew and when the last seed vanished from my sight, the air became clear again. I was going to be very busy, very soon. I stand in front of my home, damaged but still there. If it had the guile to keep standing, then so could I. I kept breathing, and stepped inside.
All until only a metallic heartbeat would remain, as the rain began to stop and the girl leaped away. Forever