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Truth in Nature, Truth in Love

Sometimes, I take walks in the rain- not in a pitter-pat drizzle- but preferably a full cascading shower. A rain whose voice we hear smack hard against window panes and pavement, a rain whose warning report vigorously flashes on the bottoms of television screens. As I walk I revel in the silence of the thunder and lightning and become dazed by the quite deliberate rhythm of those defiant drops. It's no obnoxious Seattle rain nor is it a teasing tropical downpour. It is a New York City rain, in its certain outlandish eccentricity. It's as if the if they smile at us as they filter out the awful stench: of week old urine, of the dead rats decaying beneath, of bittersweet heroin crowding these streets. Of release from tension, the harshness that makes this city magnificent and real.

I must walk with my head down, otherwise the rain may attack my glasses, but not for a second do I believe this will be successful, nor can I ever bring myself to tote around a damned umbrella. Should I fear nature? Should I attempt to conquer it? The rain laughs at me, you know, and I'm forced to tear the glasses from my face. And the once-clear crisp world where every street sign is discernible, where each leaf on each tree is separate from the others, is now transformed into a dull, dark fogginess. So I bow my head down in awesome obedience. Well, perhaps it is better to see the world in a dull, dark fogginess. So I laugh right back at it - the rain I mean. I set my head up straight and allow my drenched ponytail to whip hard against my back and suddenly, I realize that I've forgotten my destination and purpose. Instead, I've become enamored by the sopping strands of hair in my mouth and the cool drops gently falling from the tip of my nose. I focus on each exhalation; the freshness of my cool wet breath as it leaves the warmth of my lungs. Only in the rain do my fears disappear.

Instinctively, I begin to wonder whether my mascara is dripping down my cold pale cheeks. I notice my sopping wet tee-shirt, my nipples erect, those stranger's stares; my pathetic attempt at revenge. But then again, who cares? I have someone who loves me through all my layers. My thoughts drift to my beautiful lover shivering at home under the warmth of a thousand quilts. As I hypnotically wallow in the freedom of the cold wet rain, he suffers with fever; sick from his addiction that I'm sure one day I'll understand. I can see the half empty bottles of Valium, Xanax, ambien, Unisom and Jack Daniel's neatly ordered (perhaps by size or alphabetically) on the dingy coffee table. I envision him cringing with agonizing cramps, half-heartedly glaring into a place he can't yet understand. So I turn around hesitantly, not wanting to return but understanding that I must. It becomes a matter of duty, or whatever. Perhaps I will be able to applaud my unselfishness later as he so lovingly thanks me.

All too soon, I reach the alley that leads to the apartment building. Each time I encounter this peculiar and spooky tunnel, I am forced into battle with my cowardice. I can always revert a few blocks to avoid the trauma or I can just endure the temporary panic to confront my fears. Besides, all my past tunnel escapades have merely left me with a sore neck from jerking it to and fro with each minute echo and squeal. So I ask myself, "why should I remain afraid?" Besides, it's raining and I know I will be protected.

So far, my wanderings­originally meant as a cigarette run­have become a mixture of simple story telling and queer revelation. Now is the time of truth. At the initiation to the wretched gangway, an overwhelming sense of queer detachment distorts my vision, as if I am watching the world in a sort of panorama movie. It immediately flashes me back to a teenage acid trip where I fought myself for hours on whether the world was real, or a cruel Hollywood joke. All I knew was that I had become disembodied in the setting.

I sense that same acute alienation now. I could obviously continue my trek utterly fearless regarding whatever danger awaited me. For now I was blessedly protected. I wonder often of the truth in that journey through the uncanny alleyway. At the exit, I realized my neck and mind were free from that all too awful paranoid soreness. My breath was as free as it had ever been.

When I finally reach the stairs, I am confused and exhausted. I ravish my pockets for the keys, fully aware the entire time that they are laying just where I had always kept them. I beg for just a few more greedy seconds while the rain sprinkles against my eyelids. With each step, I stagger towards the apartment. The alley forces the reality of our dreary situation even more. What a curious change. I wonder if I'll ever make it to the fourth floor? Must I crawl? Instead, I grip the handrail tightly and claw at each new stair, progressively resenting my debilitating conscience. Hours I struggle on that stairway consumed in madness and terror. Days I spend in that curious alley. Years pass as I argue with the devil in front of the doorway.

With all the strength of my will, I find I am able to raise my arm and turn the slippery knob. At the threshold, the nausea begins to slowly set in. I close my eyes tightly and listen to the cacophony of the cats' incessant mewing, dueling with the snowy sound of the TV set and the rain's roaring rapture. One cat crawls up to my leg and begins brushing its head gently against me. I feel the acute desire to kick it with all my force, to rupture its head against the gray tiled floor or smash it like an egg against the wall, watching its bloody tissue splatter then disappear. Of course I don't do any of these things, but really I can't. Perhaps. Instead I venture toward the living room and only then am I able to open my eyes. And with open eyes I feel the peaceful rhythm of his breath circulating in the air. He is so close­closer than ever. My only true love, he alone who knows my heart, at once delicately taking hold of all my faith. I am reminded of the rain as I press up against his sweat soaked shirt and I let out one last cool deep breath. The rain just now ceases. I am not disappointed. I feel my fears creep freely from my body, through my pores, through my veins. And all at once, the illusions disappear and all that can be seen are the actor's credits.

­Kristie Dowling


Read "Pay Attention, Please" or "Ode to Reason" Kristie's previous feature.


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