Day 901, November 30, 2022
The rain was coming down in sheets that you could see push their way across the parking lot. It was the kind of rain one sees in hurricanes or during monsoon season. It was a visceral rain that was simultaneously exhilarating and frightening, like a great wave breaking on the beach. I leaned in close to the building, taking as much shelter as I could get before venturing up the hill. I watched a young man struggle with an umbrella before it became fully turned inside out and he wielded its uselessness as one carries an offensive thing, like a smelly stick.
I struck out across the street, and immediately my feet were soaked through, not because I had stepped into a deep puddle, but because all the world had become a puddle and anything exposed to the elements was thusly soaked. I climbed the stairs behind a woman wearing a hooded down coat and pajama bottoms that clung tighter and tighter to her buttocks and legs. I could not make out the repeating decoration, maybe it was some cartoon character. I swerved to the side and started to jog up the hill.
While I ride my bicycle whenever I have the opportunity, I am not a jogger. I have not run for exercise since my athlete days, which ended somewhere in my first year of college after I quit the football team. Since then, my running is mostly confined to airport terminals when trying to make a gate before the flight attendants seal the doors, when running feels like one is in a Jason Bourne movie and almost immediately it becomes apparent that I would made a terrible secret agent or bad guy because the chase scenes would end abruptly doubled over while massaging burning muscles.
Nevertheless, in the calculation of spending the next fifteen minutes getting progressively damper behind the pajama buttocks, or going for an uphill jog, I decided on the jog. Jogging in the dark, in the heavy rain, while wearing a parka with a fur lined hood, is not easy feat. So it was a slow jog, which was a good thing because I could not see the windfall branches until I was stepping on them. Near the top of the hill I slowed to a brisk walk and I could see my car parked at the crest, the number two spot off the path. I was proud to have scored that spot that morning. I hadn’t registered the threat of rain, even as I marveled at the intricate cloud cover.
I spent a summer taking classes at Exeter, New Hampshire, once. It was a summer of torrential showers and some of us reveled in the sensuality of frolicking in the rain. None of us owned anything like a cellphone or carried anything valuable in our wallets, we were only children, really. Unfamiliar, yet, with more carnal sensuality, we enjoyed how our clothes stuck to our bodies and made us feel naked. We tried to smoke cigarettes that were too damp to light. We imagined that this is what true freedom was, to dance recklessly in the rain, jumping in puddles, and laughing.
I wonder if I will ever feel that kind of joy again. I am doubtful that I could frolic so vigorously without hurting myself. I’m not even certain I will ever be that wet again.
A certain subset of my peer group has taken to posting photos of themselves taking polar plunges, or more accurately, increasingly polar plunges, where they are continuing to venture into the rivers even as we brush up against December. They seem happy and joyful, even holding up sections of ice. I have not chosen to join them in this pursuit, but wonder if I am missing out on something vital.
Once I reached my car, I settled in as well as I could and caught my breath long enough to fog all the windows, and then I waited until the defroster cleared the windows enough to see. I could feel the water pooling around my socks. As I backed out of my spot, I think I saw pajama bottoms crossing to one of the dormitories just a little further up the hill. I felt a little embarrassed for having taken refuge and not taken the slow and deep plunge and given myself entirely over to the rain.