by Yiu-On Li
Art by Annika Javier
Issue: Kalopsia (Spring 2017)
I hurry home. A light rain’s brewing already, and I rather not stick around long enough to find out when it starts pouring.
The rains are a rare phenomenon in this town, so we’ve always bore the brunt of a de facto state of drought here. I don’t see why so many people make such a big deal of nature relieving itself, since we receive plenty of expensive water aid from the neighboring towns and counties.
Put simply, this is the first time I’ve been greeted by the rains in about a decade or so, and I don’t care. Meanwhile, I can just imagine my eleven-year-old self swimming in euphoria with that first drop hitting the concrete. It’s too bad, really. Assuming that foolish child is still alive today, I’m sure he can persuade the water engineers of our town to stop worshipping the storm clouds.
I concern myself with these childhood trifles no longer. When today and tomorrow both loom ominously, there’s hardly time to contemplate the inner workings of an unhinged simpleton of then.
Not many of those who consider themselves the progeny of life share my sentiments. Coffee shop owners. Gossiping teenagers. Dogs being pulled along by their owners, and vice versa. The person who goes around in the local ice cream truck. They’re all just strangers in this world that I don’t and won’t ever know, all blissfully ignorant and seized by sporadic yearnings for the fragments of their past.
I sigh. Might as well be going.
I step out from under the canopy in front of a building, and a deluge of droplets rush down to my face. Odd. It’s not often that you see rain escalate from a shower to a downpour this quickly, but what do I know? I might want to look into this event someday. Just not now.
While the rains may be rare, especially one of this intensity, I always keep an umbrella hanging from my belt. People shoot me confused looks every day, condescendingly remind me that it hasn’t rained for years and probably never will like I’m still some kind of uneducated halfwit. But now I (and only I) have the last laugh.
In one swift motion, I grab my umbrella and proceed to expand it, gracefully repelling the attacking drops of liquid. Unfortunately, puddles are already beginning to pool next to me, and it’s only a matter of time before I splash into one. I press on, and start walking through the streets.
It’s at this moment that the already-disconcerting torrent of water from the heavens turns into an utter onslaught of bullets.
How annoying. Just as I begin my trek to my house, I’m reminded of its true antagonism. It wants nothing more than to ruin your day and to soak you from head to toe. What gives it the right to terrorize billions of people on a daily basis, around the world? Why can’t it just go away and leave everybody alone?
This rebellion must be quashed.
My annoyance manifests itself, and progresses to such a degree that I find myself fervently battling against the rain. Umbrellas are for cowards; I permit the wind to ferry it away. Better to fight face to face than to hide behind a shield, as I’ve done for too long.
I deflect the droplets flying towards my body with my hands. They drip to the ground and pool at my feet, widening existing puddles that I nimbly step over. I’m given a small taste of victory: The rain starts to ease up as if in apprehension of my power. Yes, bow before me, you lowly capsules of liquid.
But through some kind of cruel placebo or sadistic joke played by the universe, victory is but an illusion. No sooner after my previous thought does the rain return, with greater vigor than before. Like a swaying giant against a swarm of locusts, I swat fruitlessly at the intruders of my personal space. Pain erupts throughout my entire body, as I’m battered by hundreds of tiny projectiles a second.
I grow numb from the bombardment I experience from all sides. Spinning round and round, I try in vain to somehow dodge or push the droplets away. The puddles have their revenge as I clumsily stumble into a series of puddles, their icy grasp seeping through my shoes and socks and extending onto my bare feet.
Finally, I give up.
I can almost physically feel my bitterness colligating into a lump within the pits of my organs and spreading outwards, vanquishing the passion exploding through my veins present a mere paltry number of paragraphs before. Without an umbrella—what kind of deranged person tosses their umbrella to the wind without a second thought?—I’m left at the mercy of the elements. Broken on all fronts, I curl up into a ball onto the drenched concrete, swamped with shame, lightheadedness, and fatigue.
And just like that, I feel something snap. I’m assailed again, but not by droplets this time. With no energy left to resist, I close my eyes and begrudgingly follow the whims of my mind.
“Oh no. No, no, no. I won’t deal with this now. Get out of my head!”
Lo and behold, against a backdrop of dark, I’m shown a certain eleven-year-old boy in a shirt, a pair of shorts, and some sandals. His back faces me.
“Not you again. I thought—I had disposed—I’ve gotten rid of you already,” I say to the apparition, with an air of dread. “You died—you’re supposed to be dead.”
He turns his head around and smiles, an aggravating innocent smile only an irritating child—could be—is capable of. His expression isn’t one of malice, but how I wish it—were—is.
“You have no right to be here. This is my life, and I can live it all without your sickening ignorance, your awkward social life, and your self-centered ego.”
His smile only widens while a storm brews within this thoughtscape of mine. Rain follows, of course, as strong as the one—I just endured—in reality.
“The world has no place for dreamers. Stop preoccupying yourself with petty pursuits; it’s the doers who make everything happen. Let me give you some advice, kid: Like the very rain that falls around us, the past is ephemeral. One moment it’s here, and…” I snap my fingers. “Poof. It’s gone.”
He keeps on smiling.
“Look around you!” I scream over the deafening roar of the rain. “None of this—nothing, I say—matters here. You are of absolutely no concern to this world. Stop wasting your time. Leave the past to the historians, and you’ll make the world that much of a better place.”
I look away, or at least try to. Given that this surreal experience is nothing more than a vision of sorts, I’m surprised I—was even given—even have the opportunity to talk and expound my philosophy to a figment of my imagination. To a regular passerby in the real world, I’m probably just a lunatic whispering thoughts of fancy to myself. Great. The boy grins at me one last time before trotting away, as artificial surroundings pertaining to the time and place of this prior incident begin to appear.
What’s he doing? Surely he knows that puddles are already beginning to pool next to him, and it’s only a matter of time before he splashes into one. He’d—He’ll do well to have an umbrella to expand, gracefully repelling any attacking drops of liquid.
Protection from the rain is apparently of no worry to him, and I watch in amazement and horror as this boy—this boy of eleven years of age—freely—jumped—jumps into a puddle and wade around in it, without so much as a care in the world.
He’s embracing the rain, and splashing about freely in its puddles, an ever-widening grin plastered onto his face. He laughs. He’s having the time of his life.
Did Did Do did do Did DO DID Do do Do D… i… d… I do that?
Am—Was… I once unburdened by the pressures of responsibility? Was I once free to do as I pleased? Despite my shortcomings, had I been capable of experiencing real joy?
Longings for what could have been fill my head. I look on, mouth ajar and composure failing.
“Thank you,” I manage to say to my younger self. He never died—I just wanted him to.
My vision fades as he waves goodbye and disappears. The world crumbles as I open my eyes to a new one.
It’s still raining, but not nearly as hard as it had been earlier. I stand up, dust myself off, and stride freely through the rain, a smile etched into my face for the first time in years. With past and present together again at last, I looked and look to the future.