Something Monstrous After The Rain

It finally rained last night, and when I left the office, it was a revelation. Everything smelled different, felt fuller in my mouth and lungs, as if I were getting more nutrition out of every breath, as if it had rained antioxidants and electrolytes. There was a little fog now, but still the air seemed clearer, the streetlights brighter, and I knew that the next day the view across the valley would be sharp, seen through fresh glasses.

It’s been an oppressively dry couple of weeks, and the flat sky was starting to wear on me, so unbecoming for a vertical city. Without moisture and clouds, everything starts to look like different shades of dirt: the black dirt of rice paddies, the brown dirt of dying moss, the gray dirt of dusty streets, the pastel dirt of colorful Indian houses slowly bleaching in the sun. I haven’t been uncomfortable or unhappy, but something felt missing, some aspect of this place that I remember loving. I listened to the same couple songs on repeat. I avoided my book, and I wrote less and more poorly. (Writing the bulk of the piece on my flat was a struggle against vague and looming mediocrity and apathy.) I didn’t want to take as many pictures. I had begun to wonder, in the most cramped and cynical crevices of my mind, why I had even come at all.

But after the rain the rice paddies glint with puddles, the wall moss uncrinkles and plumps up, the roads reveal their rocky texture, and the houses pop bold against the hill. There is muck in the streets now, but the city looks cleaner and more beautiful. I feel my shoulders loosen up and my eyes dart with eagerness again.

And then there was the cloud. Walking home last night I rounded a corner and saw it, slinking low through the valley like a sea serpent: a huge bank of fog, as thick as wool and close enough to touch. Surely the thing was a titan, or the ghost of some old dead god, older than Buddha or the dancing deities of Hinduism with their many arms. This thing didn’t have or need arms. It was primordial. The monster that first inched out of the ooze, unnucleated, unegoed, and blind. The cloud crept over the houses in impressionist undulations, and where it crossed civilization its organs floresced with windowlight — an aura of moods, generated, surely, by the human lives in each house. It sipped harmlessly of our presence and moved on to the next street, leaving us none the wiser.

I stood and stared at it for a while. This was not the first god I’d seen in the mountains, but it was the first one I had seen on this trip. I rolled that word — ‘god’ — around in my cheek a bit. A strange idea next to the reports and press releases of executive board meetings and development seminars and petty politics that had been my afternoon. ‘Spirit,’ ‘elemental,’ ‘demon,’ ‘old one,’ ‘ghost,’ ‘god.’ Not things I believed in, certainly, not the way I believe in global warming or black holes, anyways. But then, after that fresh, finally rain, revelation was in the air. So what else could it be?

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