Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Rainstorm Epiphanies

Here's a story that's been percolating in my brain since it happened last weekend. It was one of those nights that you feel something's going to happen, although you couldn't offer any insight as to what that might be. From my journal:

I went to see Jurassic Park City at the Off-Broadway Theatre tonight. Opening night always has a special energy and any excuse to go downtown is valid in my book. As I was searching for a parking spot I could tell that the wind was really starting to pick up. I parked and exited the car; it had started to rain. There were four blocks between the theatre and myself. Piece of cake. But within moments of exiting my vehicle the rain was no longer in the form of friendly August droplets, it was in the form of buckets of water being poured from the sky. Summer storms are nicer than winter ones, so I wasn't daunted. I kept walking. I mean, I wasn’t going to miss the show on account of rain.

 There’s an odd camaraderie that can result from unusual circumstances like this. Usually each person on the city street is isolated in their only little world, no attempt at interaction. Not so today. Huddled under awnings waiting for the crossing symbol to light up with the little walking man, I was making eye contact and smiling at strangers caught in this storm. We shared a silent laugh that seemed to say, “Wow, look at this crazy amount of rain! We sure as heck were not prepared! Ha!” It’s always nice to have a connection with someone, even if just for a moment.

 After block one the wind was starting to resemble a gale and causing the raindrops to become a little painful as they stung my face. But I couldn’t help but be struck with how much I love living in Salt Lake City. I don’t go downtown enough. I love the bustle of the city and all the stories contained in it. I love walking down crowded streets and feeling like this is my place in the world. I knew I loved the city on crisp winter nights and calm spring days, but I didn’t yet know that I loved it in the center of a summer storm, hair saturated with rain and feeling slightly ridiculous as pedestrians with umbrellas strolled by. I do, though. Love it. 

By block two I was laughing at the perfection of it all. I’ve been walking through an emotional rainstorm for the last couple months. It’s been beyond rough, and people are probably tired of hearing about it. (For which I apologize. A major defining crisis has been thrust upon me upon me. I've learned A LOT, and I keep wanting to talk about it.) But now, confronted with a physical storm and the chance to turn around, I knew that I could and would keep going. I could walk for miles if I needed to. This storm wouldn’t beat me. An insane part of my brain even relished the challenge. “Is this the best you’ve got? I can keep up in this all day! Bring on the hail!” (I am so grateful it did not hail.) It was nice to have a physical match for the emotional turmoil that has flooded my inner landscape.

Block three-- the rain had already soaked my clothes clear through and showed no signs of stopping. Catching a glimpse of myself in a store-front window confirmed my suspicions that I looked very much like a bedraggled kitten. I had to smile.  My t-shirt clung to my body and my jeans-- well, wet jeans are a special form of torture. At least I was wearing sandals and not something that would require socks. Sitting for two hours in wet socks would be even worse than the aforementioned jeans.

Dashing across the street with a business-looking man (the weather is no respecter of persons) we splashed, with no dignity whatsoever, through puddles that reached up to our ankles. At this point the wind was out of control. When stepping away from the shelter of a sturdy building I felt an instant of apprehension that I was going to be blown into the street. I briefly entertained the notion of clinging to a light pole. Surely that would keep me anchored to the earth. The rain unrelentingly pounding into my eyes made it virtually impossible to see; I hoped that no drivers decided to text and drive today, because one of us had to have eyes on the road. 

Sometimes you live moments that you know will be remembered even as they are springing into being. This was one of them. It probably doesn’t sound significant-- walking alone in the city through the worst rainstorm I'd been exposed to in years-- but it was. I felt like my surroundings matched my inner atmosphere, and I felt free. When the worst happens and you keep going, that’s winning, right? My hard things might not seem unique or life threatening on paper, but they have felt that way. And I have kept going. Walking through this storm was therapeutic.

 Anyway, it sounds odd, but I wanted the walk to last forever. I wanted to laugh in the face of the storm and continue proving something to myself, although exactly what I was proving was hard to define. But four blocks doesn’t take that long, even in the pounding rain that seems to herald the building of an ark (will people ever stop making Noah comments every time rain pours down?), and then I arrived at the theatre. The spell was broken when I stepped inside. Not in a negative way, just, the moment was gone. No longer was I the instant friend of strangers on the street, a warrior claiming victory with every step. I was now a girl in the presence of non-rainstorm people, drenched to the bone, dripping all over the carpet. My shoes were already making that squelching sound I hate so much. 

“Hello,” I said self-consciously to the man standing by the door surveying me curiously. “It’s a little bit wet out there.” It is one thing to be soaking wet outside, alongside other soaking wet people. It is quite another to be soaking wet inside a building where no one else is. I felt like a character in a gothic novel, making my entrance while silhouetted against a flash of lightning. Eric Jensen was in the lobby, who I recognized as a writer, actor, director, and what have you at the OBT. He approached me with a smile and said, “You look like you fell in the lake!” Yes, I was the wettest I’ve ever been without having visited a water park, but it sure did give me an instant conversation starter. I carefully peeled apart the folded ticket in my purse to present to the usher, then made my way downstairs to attempt to wring out my shirt, jeans, and ponytail in the bathroom. The venture was not very successful. When I came back upstairs an usher found me and gave me both a towel and a blanket, saying, “You’re going to be cold.” Is that the sweetest thing you have ever heard or what? I was so touched; I simply couldn't get over it. What a theatre. What kind and thoughtful people! (I will do a show there someday. It's on my SLC bucket list.)

 The show was good. I laughed at Robert Redford impersonations, BYU jokes, and “sort of” Australian accents while wrapped in a borrowed blanket and the knowledge that this is all part of my character growth arc. Let the rain pour down...... the clouds never bothered me anyway.

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