Swinging in the rain

May 5, 1999 at 12:00 am

Sweltering air – a suspended layer of it. Not to even think of moving. Hot-’n’-heavy in Hamtramck. From the porch, we can see the kids play slow-motion stickball under a streetlight. Across the way, neighbors barely lift tiny cups of Turkish coffee or shot glasses of slivovitz. It’s so humid they don’t need a chaser, just a gulp of that sopping midnight sponge called breeze.

Everybody waits and waits for sleep to lift them out of their chair, pull them into the cotton-packed airlessness of the house and drop them delirious into the puddle called bed.

We hang out later than anyone, till no more music comes from the corner bar. Nary a motor guns on the main drag blocks away. The cops drive by.

Soon we’re not even talking, just sitting half-awake, when a little gust picks up an empty paper bag and brings it over to a clump of wilted bushes. The breeze gets a little stronger and a low sound comes over the rooftops like a semi rolling down to Ohio on the expressway.

Another five minutes and the draft turns to wind. A drop hits a parked car and, for an instant, it might just be birdshit from the sound. But here comes another and another. By the time it’s pouring kittens and pups, we’ve run ’round to the small, closed-in stairway at the back door.

The streetlight in the alley sheens up from the torrent on the stairs. And the rain just won’t stop roaring.

Licking lips and flattening drenched hair, we laugh at this sudden deluge of fortune, like a lottery ticket from up above with all the right numbers. And the yard takes it all in, sucking it down to the roots of its green living things.

We listen to the storm coming straight down, hitting the houses, the trees, the garage that masks off most of the alley. And then, from the looks of it, we each get the same idea in the space of two brainwaves – throwing off flimsy clothes to stand in original nakedness at the threshold of the porch’s seclusion. Holding onto each other’s bodies now gone to goosebumps from the wind and spray, we decide it’s time to go into that good night. Down the stairs, onto the rough sidewalk, through the sopping grass, our toes sinking into spontaneous lovely pools.

A kind of dance follows, like a ceremony in honor of the sky. No one sees it in the moonless, raging yard, but we do the dance of a thousand points of wet, a thousand hands, a thousand tongues. It’s tempting to lie down in this manna from heaven.

But, cooled, we run back up the stairs and sit in our skin at the edge of all hell breaking loose. Water ... water ... water ... wet wonder of water. It comes to us and we come to it.