My ex-wife Bobbi is determined to dance in the rain.
We haven’t had rain in Olfa County in nearly six weeks, which is a shame for many reasons. We’re getting notifications from the local water control folks that we need to take shorter showers. The farmers are fretting. I saw an old dog by the side of the road looking very concerned. While Bobbi may be upset about all that, she’s most distressed over not being able to go dancing in the rain once our divorce is complete.
You see, we didn’t have what most people would consider to be an amicable divorce. After my numerous infidelities over the past eight years, Bobbi had decided she’d had enough. She packed up her hand-me-down suitcase with sundresses and big hats and announced that somebody should stuff me and stick me in the Jackass Museum.
Just like that, she was out the door. The muffler coughed a few times as she fired up her Ford F-Series and the tire tracks she left pulling out looked as good as Bonnie and Clyde’s. That’s who I thought we were when we first met. Two troublemakers destined to go down in a blaze of glory before the age of twenty-six.
Didn’t pan out that way.
As soon as we were married, I discovered that days at the recycling plant and nights bowling as part of the local league were going to be enough to drive me a quiet kind of mad. That’s why I took up adultering and hiding as much as I could from Bobbi. It gave me a feeling of--
Well, you don’t really give a damn about any of that, do you?
No, I bet you don’t. I bet you’ve watched a dozen movies all about the sad husband who can’t get his humor up so he screws around on his wife and the filmmaker wants you to feel bad for him, because the filmmaker probably screws around on his wife, and all of Hollywood wants to make screwing around a lesser sin so they cast Paul Rudd in the lead role, because who could ever stay mad at him?
I don’t look like Paul Rudd. According to Bobbi in one of the emails she sent me after she left, I look like Jackie Gleason under a heat lamp. She isn’t wrong, but I had no idea she even knew who Jackie Gleason was. Bobbi kept a lot to herself. In the first six months I knew her, I think she said thirty words to me, and most of them were “Sure,” “Fine,” and “Works for me.” That allowed me to project whatever I wanted onto her like a drive-in movie screen with a great pair of legs.
Leave it to me to send a woman like that packing. I was in Target the other day, and they had sundresses on sale. One of the managers had to come over and comfort me, because I was down on my knees crying right there in the middle of the women’s wear section thinking about how my life had been boring and I scratched it up to bad.
You don’t want to hear about any of this though. I apologize for going on like this. I just don’t have anyone to talk to. Oh sure, I got three therapists, but I’m sleeping with two of them, and the third is this guy who keeps asking me to take something called a sociopath test.
In her last email to me, with the subject line “Hey Tacky Gleason,” Bobbi informed me that she was seeking closure from our marriage by dancing in the rain. She had spent time at a wellness seminar out by the all-womyn commune and come away with a few revelations. The commune used to be a training camp for all the feathered actors featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. There were cardboard cutouts of Tippi Hedren all over the place and they’d teach the little buggers to swoop down and attack anything that looked even remotely blond. For awhile, the town made some decent change on it by advertising it as a tourist attraction. Once that dried up, they sold it to the womyn (spelled with a ‘y’ for some reason I’ll never understand) and now they invite people to come there after a nasty break-up or divorce to heal and make blankets with bad words on them.
Bobbi sent me a photo of a blanket she made for me with a message on it I won’t repeat. Suffice it to say, it instructed me to get one part of my body out of another part of my body, and while I will accept that blanket since the quality is clearly top-notch, I do not appreciate the sentiment imbued in it.
Along with that photo, she told me to be on the lookout for rain, because that would be the death of the womyn I once knew. No funeral necessary, she said, nothing but a clear understanding that after that rain-dance, the two of us should feel free to move on as though the last six years of our lives were nothing but a blip on the grand plane of human consciousness. I wanted to write back and tell her I flunked physics twice so please don’t use this hoochy-coochy language with me, but I was already in a hole and I didn’t feel like digging any deeper.
Instead, I waited for rain.
Time passed and the sun seemed unwilling to relinquish the sky. I didn’t get any other emails from Bobbi, but I could feel her out there, stewing over the symbol she’d set that would indicate her liberation only to discover that it might not show up. Dirt turned to dust. A pond over by the haunted veterinary hospital dried up. Some kid trying to fry ants with a magnifying glass ended up burning down the Charles Nelson Reilly Museum. Things seemed out of control and under the control of an oppressive force all at the same time.
In my mind, I saw Bobbi sitting in her new apartment feeling purgatized. Not being able to go any which way. A new place only half-decorated. Pictures leaning up against walls they might never be hung up on. A freshly adopted cat refusing to come out from under the bed. Fancy kitchen appliances still in their boxes with the receipts taped to the outside as a reminder that it wouldn’t be too late to give up and go back.
Back to a life with me. Back to boring and broken. The truth was Bobbi didn’t care all that much about my cheating. She told me in her email that she believed monogamy was a creation of the patriarchy that benefitted men far more than it did womyn. (I think she might have just picked that up at the commune, but I can’t be sure.) She admitted that the real trouble was exactly what I’d been feeling and I’d been too selfish to see the same dilemma in her. We were ill-matched and too damn young to be trapped where we were. She knew it could be a manageable life, but couldn’t we manage to do better?
I didn’t have an answer for me let alone her.
At around 11:58pm on July 3rd, I was woken from sleeping in front of the tv not by the episode of Yellowstone I was watching, but by what I suspected might be…thunder.
When I reached my living room window, you could already see the black clouds coming from over by the Lana Turner statue in the middle of town. I felt something stirring in me like what those old rainmakers must have felt when they were scamming rubes into believing they could control the weather. I felt like I could make myself believe something using nothing but confidence and conviction.
“COME ON, YOU SOB,” I yelled out at the cumulus, “GIMME SOME RAIN!”
My neighbors heard me screaming. They must have thought I was begging for that rain so we could avoid an environmental fiasco. Feeling empowered by my shouting, they opened their windows and began to screech at the cloud as well. Pretty soon, everybody in town was caterwauling for some precipitation, but none of them was doing it for the reason I was.
I was doing it for Bobbi.
For the first time in my life, I was asking for something for somebody that not only wasn’t me, but would bring about my own devastation. Because while I knew Bobbi could survive and thrive after moving on from me, I wasn’t sure I could say the same for myself.
Didn’t change the fact that she was owed it.
As the town called out in prayer and fury, I felt something hit my hand as it was gripping the windowsill.
A drop of rain.
The whoop I let out was so loud, you would have thought I’d won two bucks on a strawberry scratch ticket.
At that moment, it didn’t just start raining--
It started pouring.
Right as Independence Day was ushering itself in, I knew somewhere, my ex-wife was outside dancing in all her beautiful freedom.
We never spoke again. I never got any other emails. I heard from a friend that Bobbi decided she didn’t like her new apartment all that much, and that’s why she took her cat and moved even further west to see about working for QVC selling sundresses and quilts with messages on them for ex-husbands.
The last memory you have of somebody should also be the best memory. It doesn’t work that way, but it should. My last memory of Bobbi isn’t a memory at all. It’s something I made up in my mind, because all my memories of her have me in them, and I don’t think that’s fair. She shouldn’t have to live next to me even in my recollections of her.
I came up with something in place of the truth. It’s her under all that rain. Dancing and laughing. Getting soaked to the bone and not caring one bit. The only witness being her cat. Mr. Purrfect finally coming out from under the bed to hop in the window and watch Bobbi get all that hard-earned closure. Cars driving by honking at her. One driver rolling down their window to tell her she’d better get inside lest she wants to get hit by lightning. Kicking her way through puddles all the way from here to wherever it is she wound up.