The sun was a dusty moon in a darkening sky. I thought I had heard a roll of thunder, but it might have just been a disturbance in the industrial roar of the wind turbines from the building below. I stared outside as lumbering clouds began to encroach on my window’s view of the bay. It was rare to witness a storm over the desert city I lived in, but lately, what with the world turning on its head, it didn’t seem too out of place.
Goosebumps lined my legs as I hugged them tighter to my chest. It was always a few degrees too cold in my room. I was perched on the arm of a red-pink chair that came as part of our apartment’s pre-furnishing. It was a rather inoffensive piece, in my opinion, but my parents hated it with an unprecedented passion. They were probably going to have it removed soon.
After a beat longer of observing the white sun slowly sink into the dust and sand lining the horizon, I decided it was about time I ate something. It was 4:00, definitely no-man’s land in terms of mealtime; too early for dinner, too late for lunch, but I had been waking up in the afternoon lately so my schedule had naturally begun to shirk all typical routine.
I found my younger brother wandering about like a ghost in the kitchen. He also seemed to be on the hunt for something.
“Ian, are you going to eat?” I asked, opening the fridge and pulling out last night’s leftovers.
“You haven’t eaten anything all day, have you?” He accused immediately. My brother had this annoying habit of mothering me.
“I had a banana,” I defended half-heartedly, “I woke up late.”
“Your lifestyle is terrible. Ridiculous,” He said scornfully, “Just because we're doing virtual learning now doesn’t mean you can just waste away like this.”
“There’s no reason to wake up at a specific time anymore,” I shrugged, putting the leftovers into the microwave, “Do you want to eat with me?”
Ian pursed his lips disapprovingly but nodded anyway. I knew, despite his nagging, that he liked my company.
“Let’s eat on the balcony,” He asserted, “I think it’s going to rain.”
We unfolded two dusty IKEA chairs and tucked ourselves beneath the balcony's overhang to watch the city’s normally piercingly blue sky warp into an unfamiliar sheet of dark grey.
I scraped my fork against the bottom of the bowl, enjoying the feeling of warm static in the air. I was eating homemade couscous with vegetables. It was pretty good, despite being a little drier than the night before.
“You can taste the lightning,” Ian said, sticking out his tongue as he approached the edge of the balcony. The few cars outside were mere white ants against strips of otherwise empty asphalt.
After a moment, he flinched.
“A raindrop. I felt it.”
I raised my eyebrows and set my bowl down. “Seriously?”
I stood up and held my arm out over the edge of the balcony, beneath me a freefall of hundreds of feet before the pale mosque below. It was a sure way to die if one were to dive from such a height.
Then, I felt it. A drop of warm wet against my chilled skin. The streets were silent. A small flash of purple cut through the post-apocalyptic dark above us.
“It feels like the end of the world,” I joked, the hair on my arms raising.
“It is,” My eleven-year-old brother replied somberly.
After a minute of observing the sprinkling of rain, Ian went inside, leaving me alone with my thoughts once more.
I looked down on the empty city and wondered how everyone would handle it if it all flooded again like last year. The compounds and buildings were not built to handle rain because it was normally very dry except for a few showers in the autumn. But the weather had been changing over the past couple of years. Flooding was common now whenever it occasionally stormed.
I leaned back into my folding chair contemplatively.
My high school graduation was likely to be canceled. I hadn’t seen my friends in weeks. We video called every day, but it still felt a bit empty, and it was only getting emptier as I stayed up late and woke up later, hardly moving from the bed.
It actually felt good to be outside for once. I watched as the sprinkles peppered the glass walls encasing the balcony. Each drop of rain cut through the glass’s usual layer of desert dust like a knife through butter.
It had been about three weeks ago that I had found out my school was officially canceled until further notice because of COVID-19. The message struck at the end of the day, through an announcement from our principal, Mr. Roberts.
As he very soberly addressed the high school student body over the crackling PA system, my best friend and I had danced gaily as if the news were a song. We had been in the near-empty cafeteria at the time. A kitchen staff member watched us as we foolishly moved our hips to his grave speech.
We had joked and discussed how things were going to be different, how we wouldn’t have to take our mock exams tomorrow, how virtual school days were going to be so short, and so on and so on.
At the time, I don’t think it had really occurred to anyone that that was the end. The goodbyes had been casual and joking, the senior commons mostly empty, and I had barely given a single hug by the time I was boarding my bus with my textbooks and art projects in hand.
Now, as I looked out over a fading skyline, there was the undeniable feeling of regret. It was embittering to move on without any semblance of closure for me to turn over in my mind during these silent moments that I was becoming so acquainted with. However, at the very least, there was the anticipation for me to cling to. The anticipation of the next news story, the next statistic, the next rumor. There was a twisted excitement, even, over the prospect of utter uncertainty.
But still. Even then. It didn’t do me much.
All of that feeling was dulled against the desaturated wash of unbroken continuity. Wake up to the roar of wind turbines, fall asleep to the roar of wind turbines.
I turned back inside, into my cold house. I shut the door behind me and moved the rolled-up towel on the floor to the crack beneath it so the sand wouldn’t come in.
I floated through the dining room and living room, where the TV was silent and the table was unused. I moved down the unlit hall past our empty family shoe rack and into my room, the quietest place of them all.
My curtains were still up, and the windows revealed a dark sky. The sun was out of sight, the only trace of its lingering presence being a hint of orange left behind like a heat signature reflecting on the bottom of storm clouds.
The sprinkling droned on.
I climbed into my crisp white covers and put on a pair of headphones. I listened to music as night fell and the silent city lit up.
Still, the wind turbines roared.