Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen

Storm Drains

In Stories on October 13, 2015 at 9:39 pm

rain at night


It was an unbearably long walk and wet, at that.  The rain had begun early and she knew this because she had been up since three AM and she knew this because she was certain that this much rain could not have accumulated in any shorter amount of time.  The storm drains were already clogged.  Rushing waters had the brown oak leaves scattered along the gutter into a mass at the corner drain.  To step off the sidewalk it was unavoidable that her feet would become drenched.  She submitted to its inevitability but resented it.  She had turned recalcitrant of late and harnessed much of her energy to defy dictates but she knew she best not battle with nature.  It was futile.  The cancer had taught her that.  Those in her support group had encouraged her in the opposite direction. ‘Defy it!’ they encouraged, almost in a chant, all of them, all together and she found the passion and urgency in their voices troubling as if fueled by a terror of which they were in denial.  Secretly she resented them.  Their facile comments.  She dropped out of the group and it was just that group from which she was walking away now.

She trudged through rain and leaves that flew up and plastered themselves momentarily to her cheek before they continued on their flight; before she even had time to brush them away.

She moved steadily on leaving the hovering of well-meaning people behind; affirming her desperateness to be left alone and unbothered and un-preached to.

The gutters of the crosswalk appeared to rise up against her – purposively and with some obscure malevolence as if they plotted and built this impediment precisely for her; this growing swell of water, dark and putrid. It deepened and rose.  It became a being unto itself.  But the walk and the emotionality of giving notice to the group had fatigued her and she felt unable to struggle against the brewing storm; against the storm drains themselves; the hard, mean, impassable wall.

She was an ample woman with broad hips through which she had birthed six children, two of them already dead.  To look at her one would assume she was strong.  Her own sensibilities also dictated she was, but now in the face of the dream-like flood waters, she had weakened considerably.  Her hips had slipped narrow, the meat on her bones gone paltry.

She did not attribute the weakness to the cancer whose supreme hunger for her death she still found she was able to manage.  No, it seemed to be the rain.  The rain had done her in.  The rain had leached away her strength; washed away her grit—threatened to drown her.  The rain had filled her pockets with stones like Virginia at the River Ouse.

If she could just manage to cross this street, she thought, drawing down the mountainous wall of water to a manageable size, then she might continue to live.  Just for the rest of this day.

She thought of Moses and the Red Sea—how stories not meant to be literal took on enormous literal force, inhospitable to refutes or opinions.  She wished for the powers, none the less.  For the power of a mind free of critical thinking that could take Moses at his word.

She stepped off the curb and the waters shuddered on either side of her wet sneakers.  She was making a way.  A way across.  Cars screeched to a boisterous, angry halt.  She was sorry for the consternation she had caused; the middle of a rainy street which seemed to demand cars stop, make a way. But she pressed on.  Pressed on while the water flowed.

The other side did not guarantee her life as she had hoped.  There was something about the very safety of that corner that caused the cancer to scream out—mark its territory; stake out its claim on her body; its terror on her soul.

-Annie Quintano


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