I spent yesterday afternoon eating udon in my mother’s office. Afterwards my brother and I lie on the floor, surrounded by mannequins and furniture catalogs. Though my mother works in the design department, she is not involved in design; she does the innovative business shebang. Still, whatever an innovative business room looks like, it can’t be as nice as working under the observation of articulated statues and books in pastel shades and canvases covered in curly lettering.
When my mother finishes, she goes to the window, pulling open the curtain as though ripping open a candy bar. We’d had overcast weather that morning, and so I see it fit to ask “is it raining?” to which my mother answers “more than that, it’s hailing”. Her tone is so high and so sharp she might as well have been swearing. My mother is terrified of storms.
We go down and find the doorman behind the glass door, keeping an eye on the silvery plaza. My mother says she’s never seen a storm this bad, though I can clearly recall us driving through a much worse one not a full year beforehand. She leaves for a moment, and reappears with a white umbrella. She says she’s been lent it, although there is no one left in the building who could have lent her such a thing.
The sidewalk is empty. Once in a while a couple will emerge, wet arms swinging. At one point we see an entire family, dressed in bright soaked shorts and carrying tote bags made of dark straw. The daughter, walking down the asphalt with the air of a martyr, is barefoot.
Everyone seems to have crowded into the phone store across the road. They’re all the English tourists, riding out the rain. It doesn’t take long, and soon enough I have convinced my mother to brave the trip to the metro stop.
“Afraid of a little thunder and lightning?” I say, or something to that effect. “What the heck?”
But as we wade through the dips and tucks in the street I see a girl on a street corner who is clearly terrified of that little thunder, little lightning. She’s of at least partial Oriental descent, though now, in retrospect, I cannot pluck out her features from the muck of memory. All I can remember is her black hair, and her arms, which were wrapped around a boy, who should be more properly termed a young man, though I think of him only as a boy. He had a buzz cut and broad shoulders, and one of his hands was patting her head while the other held firm to the puzzle piece of the small of her back.
We soon leave them be, and as we are making through the narrow streets so isolated one could be the paradise of monsoon and another a stark churning desert, the water slows and the clouds clear, as we are passing paralyzed stray dogs and marble store fronts, I think, in passing, a thought that is perhaps number 450 of the 700 I think per minute, stuck between one triviality and the next: THAT WAS BEAUTIFUL.
(title is never mine, but only Theodore Roethke’s, a line from his “The Storm”)