Tuesday, Jan. 05, 2021 @ 11:18 pm
A storm approaches the city at dusk. I wait for it, hoping that it hits with the predicted intensity. Soon the rain begins, lightly at first, and then a torrent unleashes from the night sky.
I pull on my rain boots and waterproof jacket and push out of my apartment. I take the stairs down and out into the blustery night. I walk along the alley towards the forest. Rainwater beads up on my face. I cross the last road before the park and stand in the gutter, watching the rain wash across my feet in a tiny black river.
I walk through the forest and out to the ocean. Nobody else is around. I jump off the seawall and walk across the sand to where the waves are breaking. A heron at the shoreline silhouetted against the light from the freighters anchored offshore.
A month has passed since that night.
I pretend that it didn’t happen. I pretend that it was a brief slip into an alternate dimension, no different from what I experience nightly in my dreams.
I stand there at the interface of land and sea and breathe in the humidity. I needed this. I needed to be alone out here at the edge of the wilderness. I needed the rain on my face and the dark night around me. I needed to be reminded of what it means to be alive, what it means to survive.
Perhaps I have been trespassed on so often in my life that this felt inconsequential. At least he stopped when I clearly expressed myself.
After a while, after the rain begins to find its way into and under my jacket, I turn and walk slowly back towards the city along the shoreline. Rockweed and broken shells and patches of soft sand. How can I be alone here, so close to millions of people? Why does everybody else hide from such life-affirming rain?
In the time since that night, I turned forty. On that day, I woke in my lover’s arms in a mountain lodge, and he brought me coffee in bed and presented me with the sweetest homemade card and gifts that caused me to laugh in delight. In the afternoon, we skated together on an outdoor rink, holding hands and turning with each other in time to the music. A small girl stared at us with wide eyes, as we sang and danced together on the ice. At sunset, he surprised me with a dogsledding adventure in the forest, with a pale moon reflecting above the snowy trail ahead of us. The sled lurching and the dogs kicking up snow and the trees whipping past in an evergreen blur. Warming up at a crackling fire among the trapper cabins. The cacophony of dogs barking and then silence as they are fed their supper.
Every day I think about how lucky I was to find you.
Your courage, compassion and tenderness shine through every day.
I can’t wait to continue to explore the forests, rocks, and paths of the world with you.
On another day, we ski tour up the side of a mountain to cut a small Christmas tree. We find a suitable area, and I begin to survey the selection of trees.
“Come here,” he says. “I have something to show you.”
He has something in his hand. I side step over in my skis, my heart racing. He is cupping his hand around something small. Is he going to propose?
I edge close to him, and he opens his hand. I look down.
A small spray of perfect, red berries. He holds the berries up above our heads like mistletoe and kisses me.
The story of the night of the rape. Am I meant to find a way to wrap the story up with a tidy bow? How many ways can I describe the shame of my betrayal? The shame of not pursuing legal action? Can I not shelve this away for now? I learned many things from that night. To whom do I owe anything? Two of my flaws exposed: avoidance and selfishness. I never expected the sympathy that flowed towards me with such abundance.
The storm continues.
I walk up from the beach and cross back into my neighbourhood towards home. I glance into an apartment and see a man reclined on his couch, vacantly watching television. He is in the lowest unit, partially underground. He is alone. I immediately want to know him. He glances out at me. Our eyes catch. I look away and continue walking.
I want to go back and knock on his window. Climb down into his apartment and turn off the TV. I want to touch his face. I want to breathe him in, to kiss the place on his neck below his ear. I want to ask how he ended up here, alone. We can be alone together.
A slip of my imagination.
The rain continues to fall.
I return home, strip my wet clothing, and stand there alone and bare in my dark room, waiting for my damp skin to dry, looking out at all of the small apartments warmly lit and occupied by people who are either momentarily or perpetually alone.
I am still here. And I am very much still alive.