It was about a week ago when my mother brought out the umbrella again, setting it next to the door leaning against the white wall. It was alone in the mudroom, locked in, and pushed away for so long before. It was sad, actually. I had used it so much in the past.
The umbrella was black, a black that had been washed off so many times it was a dark grey at this point, the metal wire on the inside rusting.
I hadn’t seen it in years, my old, worn out umbrella. I don’t know why, or how anyone could convince me to do it, but over the years I had learned, after so many tries, to simply let the rain wash over me. I enjoy it now, the sting. It makes me feel real.
But it didn’t always.
After seeing it again, that old umbrella, after so many years, I couldn’t help but feel the old memories I had once had with it wash over me once again, sharp and vivid again.
I was four in Italy. At that time my mother still held me in her arms, as I was a small toddler, immature. Rome bustled around us, millions of raincoats and umbrellas in the summer shower, yellow and black clashing in the morning mist.
She held the umbrella over my head for me. It was natural, the rain, trickling down it as she held it perfectly upright. The Italian air was dense, steaming from the hot street below. In Italy, there wasn’t much rain, but it bounced off her shield expertly, perfectly formed droplets evenly dispersed in a halo surrounding mother and child. She spoke in a soft voice to me about the umbrella, how to deal with rain when I would grow up and she would hand the umbrella to me.
I miss Italy.
The umbrella leaned against the wall, an old memory of sharp pains. The rungs were bent from where I had last used it, almost backward.
I was nine as we stood at the funeral in that graveyard. The stones littered the ground in neat lines, unfair portions of tiny cut bricks, nameless in time, and colossal cuts of marble sticking out of the ground like the shattered bones of the hill. It was a storm now, no longer just a drizzle. The wind howled and the rain was marbles against my skin.
My mother had her own umbrella. It was still, same as mine, pitch black, but it only covered her. She thought I was old enough to hold my own.
Looking back, I’m not sure I was.
I could barely hold it, against the downpour of the rain. It was too heavy, but I knew nothing else except to keep it vertical, keep it upright and try to keep the rain from piling up.
But it did.
It always does.
I don’t remember crying, actually. I didn’t know how yet, I assume. Looking back, half my life later, I wonder if I would’ve turned out differently if I had learned then how to let the rain properly wash away, let the umbrella do its job.
Don’t say I didn’t try. I did.
I asked people to help, and all they did was bend the rungs.
I hated the rain.
The umbrella leaned against the wall, tormenting me with its memories of another time, small drizzles that would add the last drop for it to tip, thunderstorms where I held strong as I could with the time that I had.
The next time I remember the umbrella was standing outside of school, freshman year.
The rain was harsh, blowing as icicles against my back, stinging with every drop. Everyone’s shield was aimed at the sky, popping colors of red and blue and black. They were mostly straight, all upright and held correctly. Some struggled, but for the most part, they were taught correctly.
I stood alone on the cold concrete, the crowds parting around me. The stone beneath my feet was dry, but all around the rock stained almost black with the water from the crying sky.
My umbrella was bent out of proportion, too destroyed to concentrate on anything. My hands shook under the weight, under the stress. I was so afraid to get wet that I couldn’t possibly think about dropping it for even a second, the water caught in the umbrella, or handing the weight to someone else. Sometimes you’ll be so concentrated on the burden you won’t realize the easy solutions in front of you.
That was the last time I saw that umbrella. I smashed it against the ground and let the water wash over me. I let it come down. All at once I let it hit me like a ton of bricks and regretted it ever since.
I let it soak my shirt until I felt the water against my wrists and my legs. I let the rain seep into every part of my body until it was all that there was.
The rain felt good.
Is that wrong, for me to enjoy it?
I like it now, to the point where I even seek it out. I’ll stand outside on a rainy day until the water blinds me and I can’t see.
And I love it.
When the rain comes I don’t take out my old umbrella anymore. Instead, I just let it wash over me.
And when it does, everything melts away. I’m alone, in the void where nothing exists.
Nothing exists except the rain.