I guess it’ll be rainy. I think the sky should either make room for the sun to smile or it should just cry it out. Okay, it’ll be rainy. On wet days it blooms umbrellas. And I have four.
There’s this lady who stands underneath the grey awning everyday and she paints the world. At least I think she paints the world. In front of the art supplies store with orange smears on the walls like blurry suns as big as my thumbs.
So she’ll be there again, and the raindrops will crawl down the slope of the awning that might’ve been blue a long time ago.
I used to paint too but not in oils like she does.
I’ll be on the other side of the zebra crossing, thinking about how the world looks through her eyes. I used to be a girl whose eyes held the world much brighter than it had the right to be.
Maybe I’ll stand up. My knees will gasp and I’ll have to hold out a hand for the wall. Across the crosswalk I’ll go, fingers pinching the fabric of my coat that hasn’t been completely dry for a long time. I will pull my coat around me as if there’ll be wind. But there won’t be wind. On windy days she does not paint.
She will be busy with the brush even as I approach her, and I won’t think twice before opening my mouth. I can imagine I will look like a person swallowed by grey t-shirts and raincoats that are blooming with wrinkles.
She’ll smile like it isn’t raining. “Come under the cover, ma’am. It’s a wet day.”
So I’ll hobble under the awning and I will see her giant palette, crying with colours that curl and stretch. I won’t lift my eyes to see what she has fussed over on the easel. Not yet.
“Have you ever tried watercolour?” I will ask, the words swimming into the rain as she moves her brush, still smiling.
“I have,” she will answer and stroke at the yellow on her palette. It will swirl into a darker yellow, kind of like wet dandelions. “But it’s hard to bring out as much colour. It’s a little bit…”
She won’t finish because she will be lost in the flurry on her canvas, and by the time she hears me breathe again, she won’t remember what words she sent into the sky.
I will lean against the glass, foggy with fingerprints if my eyes caught the light at the right angle. I will hear water trickle down the basins coated with rust, and they will sound like sad secrets. The part of the street where the sidewalk ends to meet the road will run a tiny river of rainwater.
“I used to paint too. But in watercolour,” I’ll tell her.
“Used to?” she will ask. “What happened?”
And I will shrug like I’m young and I don’t have sore shoulders, just a head pounding with things I’ll do someday. “It didn’t work out.”
I have heard the same words exhaled a thousand times but this time it’ll be different. When she says it, it will sound like it comes from the centre of her glassy soul even though we’ve never talked before.
“Thank you,” I’ll say, and I’ll say it for real for once.
And there will be a cozy silence, despite the rain that won’t want to stop yet. A car will pass, waking up puddles on the pavement and sounding like the ocean slipping under a sailboat. Sometimes silence carries a conversation, pushing it up with soft fingers.
“So what did you paint?” She will ask out of nowhere, kind of like a flashlight blinking into the fog. Grinning and golden.
“Me too. But why did you stop?”
“It didn’t work out, remember? There was nothing worth painting anymore.”
She will let the quiet waft around us in a garland. She will study the rain as if it stayed still. And she will paint it.
Then she’ll turn to me. “I finished, ma’am.”
I’ll notice she has very odd tennis shoes.
“Would you like to critique, ma’am? I don’t mind.”
Only then will I lift my heavy eyes. They are surprisingly good considering the grey I found in my hair a long time ago. I will lift my eyes and I will see the little library, and the strangled thrift shop. Also the convenience store that smiles where the sidewalk curls left. And the sky that cries diamonds and the wet empty road with the cracked manhole. I will see all of these, but in brighter oils that will be wet still, with a sheen that reminds me of her eyes.
And then I will look closely. I will see an old woman, sitting on the sidewalk with her four umbrellas that look like monochrome flowers. She will be holding the brighter world in her eyes and she will be smiling.
I will thank the artist with two whispered words.
And she'll reply with a dimpled smile, her eyes a bewildered golden like the paint on her fingers. And we will watch the rain together.
But for now I will watch the fat clouds crawl across the sky. No rain and no obvious sun. The street across from me and everything else I can see simmers in old colours, like water in a yogurt container after the paint had drowned from the brushes a thousand times.
For now I arrange my umbrellas every once in a while and wait for the chink of a coin, joining the rest in the ancient coffee cup that sighs in front of me.
For now I watch her smile over her canvas, never knowing what she actually sees. And I probably won’t ever cross the street because I know she won’t talk to me. I wouldn’t talk to me.
For now I’ll sit here and wait until somebody shows me the world is worth it again.