Heavy lies the rain

Submitted into Contest #118 in response to: Set your story during a sudden change of season.... view prompt

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Inspirational Creative Nonfiction Contemporary

I wish I was dreaming.


The rains are early this year. When it isn’t raining, it’s eerily cold. This isn’t the biting cold of the northern states, or the pleasant chill atop of cloud-crowned mountains. I like that kind of cold, where you wrap yourself in ten layers of clothing, and stomp briskly about with pink-tinged cheeks, feeling your eyes smart and prickle, and you say you hate this blistering frost, but you secretly love how alive it makes you feel.


This is different. Dank and damp, dripping with cold sweat and stifling moisture, this kind of wet-cold blankets the city in a heavy cocoon of oppressive silence, forcing city-dwellers into air-conditioned traps. Its frozen fingers creep into your chest, clenching your heart till you feel breathless and aching for the memory of warmth, and blood, and life.


This too shall pass... Grandmummy’s words wash over me, and I close my eyes, trying to remember more. But yet again, my memories fail me.


Yellow mists seep through water-logged roads, and I watch from my window as a shapeless figure huddles under a swaying umbrella, dragging herself wearily through sloshing streams of dark-brown, grimy water. Shivering trees on either side of the road reach out their stripped black branches toward each other, in a naked plea for heat and comfort.


Inside our house, we silently sip on sugar-sweetened tea, and I try not to think of the muddy puddles outside when I swallow my brown beverage. Remorseless winds laden with sea and salt wrap their cold wings around the plants in our garden, choking the life out of them. Mamma despairs over once vibrant flowers, which now droop and wilt on their stems, yielding their lives to the lush growth of mushrooms that eagerly await death and decay.


Death comes in spades this year. Last month, one more empty spot added itself to our house. Like an an unwelcome guest, it follows us around, occupying an empty armchair, looming over the dinner table, taunting us before a book that will never be opened again. I’ve learnt to recognize the look on Mamma’s face when she goes quiet, eyes unfocused yet intent, a slight droop to her mouth that once lilted and curved in a bouquet of smiles.


Sometimes, I do what I used to with Grandmummy. I stealthily creep up behind Mamma and grab her thin cheeks, pushing them up into the vestiges of a smile. Sometimes she laughs, and sometimes she swats my fingers away, all exasperated words and dire gestures behind blue-bottle spectacles that give her an adorable matronly look. I tell her so, and she breaks into smiles, and we pretend we are very happy, just for a while.


But the cuckoo clock springs to life, and we remember, and the house falls silent again.


I think back to a time when we couldn’t feel the cold.


We’ll have pakoras tomorrow, Grandmummy’s toothless smile and childish enthusiasm would light up the room, her delight spreading unappreciated warmth through us. Pakoras and hot chai- that’s how you enjoy a cold evening.


She loved her old laptop, and spent hours watching the epic Ramayan on it. Don’t come out, don’t come out! Grandmummy would swat the screen agitatedly and we’d watch her, entertained by her antics. Can’t you see? He’s going to abduct you!


Under her woolen ‘monkey-cap’, her eyes would shine from the screen’s reflection. Look, look, this is my favorite part... no one else can lift the bow.


Fingers cold and papery dry, she’d tickle my palms slyly as we watched her favorite shows hand-in-hand, because who watches TV without company?


You’re too hard on yourself... she’d comfort Mamma and Dadda, after yet another month of fruitless job hunting. Things will work out, you’ll see. It’s not your fault, things are just difficult now.


She would laugh when Dadda brought her flowers from the garden. There’s so many garlands I can make for God today, and her infectious happiness would glean an answering smile from Dadda’s careworn face.


I’m a little tired tonight, Grandmummy’s shoulders drooped. Wake me at 9 o’clock tomorrow, I’m going to sleep in.


The cuckoo clock clamored the hour next day in a silent house, long after the priest had tolled the final bells.


With a heavy heart, I drag myself to the present. Outside, the rain thuds steadily into gutters that have burst open under the weight of a million rain droplets. I remember that first day of rain, when the city became like a backdrop for famous paintings by the likes of E. M. Turner- full of sun-kissed light, and the air flecked with gold and yellow motes. Hurrying pedestrians would stop to marvel at the morning light chasing grey shadows within gossamer fine mists, which delicately shrouded bubbling rain gutters. 


Then, that first day day became the first week, and weeks stretched and twisted like sticky strands of gum. Now, more than a month later, we are on high alert. Houses and commercial buildings in low-lying areas have succumbed to floods, shops and roads are deserted, and many have fled the city to safer grounds. Swathes of the city sag under the weight of abandonment, and red traffic lights disinterestedly collect stragglers like honey traps collecting fleas in disinfected clinics.


The rest of us have retreated indoors, praying for a deliverance.


The lights in our house flicker again- was that lightning, or another power outage?- I barely have time to think, before the room plunges into darkness. We hear groans from neighboring houses, and I’m shocked at the comfort that sound of human nearness brings. The silence and incessant rains have carved deep crevasses of isolation for us to drown in, and it’s easy to forget that there are others nearby who are toiling in the same boat. 


Torches and candles are lit; from the window, I see reflections of winking yellow lights in other houses. We’ve run out of candles, and I hear my mother distractedly rummaging about in the closet, cursing steadily under her breath. That comforts me too. I’d rather have anger and frustration than this resigned acceptance of darkness into our lives.


I come up behind her and she hears me.


“Don’t you dare, not now,” she snaps. I watch in perverse amusement as she becomes increasingly frustrated. Then I berate myself for standing idly by while the grey rooms reek of forgotten tears and grief.


I silently grab a torch, and make my way to Grandmummy’s room. Averting my eyes from the empty bed, I feel along a shelf where she’d once kept old, unused lamps. Gathering an armful, I make my way to Mamma and plonk them down in front of her. 


She stares at the gold, silver and bronzed lamps and then looks up at me. I can’t decipher her expression, and I’m alarmed when tears well up in her eyes.


“Mamma…” 


We’re suddenly hugging, and we’re crying, and then Dadda is there too. And I feel his warmth seep into me when he hugs us to him. A confused and heady mix of menthol and salt and Mamma’s powder fills the air, and something shifts deep within us.


The cuckoo clock stirs to life, but we ignore it.


That night, we play Rummy over Grandmummy’s Diwali lamps, sipping on hot lemon tea and laughing to old Hindi music that she’d loved. For once, our neighbors don’t care about the ruckus we make- at one point, I could’ve sworn I heard old Dr Jayn join in our singing.


The next morning, I make my way to the window with my coffee. It’s hard to break tradition- I’m not sure I even want to forget that Grandmummy and I would sit here in the mornings. She’d thread flowers, and I would describe to her everything I saw in the world outside, things she had difficulty seeing.


I watch the black roads, the foggy skies, the distant temple tower with its sloping front, and my gaze absently shifts to our garden.


I blink and stare. Then I’m grabbing an umbrella, I’m running outside, I’m sloshing through slippery puddles, I’m almost there now, I’m panting over bright green leaves and…


I stoop slowly, almost fearfully, over a spot of velvet pink. There, in the middle of dark brown earth and wet leaves, is a delicate flower, blooming to life, sparked to awaken by lightning in the skies. Its petals scream defiant life.


As the rain pounds a raucous beat against my umbrella held in a cold-fisted grasp, I feel my mouth curve into a smile. I think I feel alive after all.


November 04, 2021 14:06

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4 comments

Corey Melin
00:13 Nov 10, 2021

Quite the pleasant story. Smooth sailing as personally experiencing such weather in the present. Well done

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Divya Narasimhan
08:25 Nov 10, 2021

Thank you for your kind comment, much appreciated! I was inspired this by local weather conditions, so it felt easier to write. I’m happy you liked it! :-)

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Boutat Driss
16:57 Nov 07, 2021

well done!

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Divya Narasimhan
03:53 Nov 08, 2021

Thank you for your kind feedback! :-)

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