Into the Rain

August 4, 2016

She lay where the road took a dramatic curve upward, towards the wooded playground where she had played fairies all those years ago. Eyes closed, hands splayed out to embrace the wobbly concrete, she let the rain soak into through her clothes into her skin, where it seeped into her blood and into her cells, where there was no turning back.
Her cousin was gone. Her aunt. Her uncle. Her grandparents. Disappeared in a rainstorm seven years ago. She remembered her cousin’s last, three fingered wave, with a promise to see her as soon as she got back from the playground.
She had never come back.
Slam. A car skidded across the intersection, right in front of her feet, and the driver ran out in alarm to pull her up out of the road.
“What the hell are you doing?” he shouted.
She didn’t know what to say—how she could possibly describe what she was doing. She just shook, rain dripping down her arms and her legs and onto the soft top of her bare feet. She was no longer drowning now—no longer able to pretend that she could find them. How could she, when the only notice she got was from a letter in a bottle, floating in the sudsy sink when it overflowed?
She couldn’t find her cousin. She couldn’t find her aunt, or her uncle, or her grandparents. Not when the rain was seeping out through her cells and her blood and her skin, and she was no longer drowning and was losing time—losing time to not turn back.
Her wrist throbbed from the driver’s grip on her arm, and she struggled to form words. Struggled to remember what words even were. “Let go of me, I’m fine.”
He didn’t loosen his grip. “You could’ve been killed!”
“I know,” she said. “But it’s not about that, is it? Yes, I would’ve died, but not really. Not when you have another place to go.”
“Heaven doesn’t take the suicidal, kid,” the driver replied. He looked weary—pained. With his free hand, he clamped a black studded cap firmly to his head—holding it on to keep it from flying away in the wind.
“It’s not heaven.”
At her words, the driver’s lips parted slightly, a silent “oh”.
“When you die, you are taken into the earth and you decompose. But this is somewhere different. Somewhere better. Somewhere reserved just for me, where I was always meant to go.”
“Whatever it is, it isn’t worth killing yourself over.” The driver pulled her further to the side of the road, just close enough to glimpse the first in a quartet of swings swaying in the wind. It had been there that she finally put down her fairy wings and wandered out into the woods to find her family — only to find no one. No one but the imprints of five people lying in the road—right where the road curved upward. The imprints were soon covered in tar, but she knew they were there. She knew even as she lowered herself onto the road and let the rain pour down onto her skin.
“Here, why don’t I give you a ride?” the driver suggested, his voice gruff with an attempt to be kind.
“I don’t know you,” she said.
“Well, is there anyone you could call?”
“No, I’m fine,” she said, pulling herself away from him. “My house is only a block away.”
The driver shook his head. “I can’t let you go out there again. I can’t.”
“Listen,” she pleaded, “it’s not heaven. It’s not heaven and it’s not dying. It’s about embracing the rain—becoming a part of it. It’s about making a sacrifice for the greater good of the earth. The earth needs rain—there’s not enough of it.”
“What good do you think your death can do?”
“It isn’t death.”
“Then what is it?”
“It’s a reunion with my family, who left with the rain to save the world. They left me behind because they thought I wouldn’t be able to handle it, but I can handle it. I will handle it.”
The driver frowned. “It doesn’t have to be you.”
“But that’s what everyone says. It’s what everyone tells themselves, so they don’t have to do anything to make a difference.”
The driver was silent for a moment, jaw tightening as water slapped against the asphalt. Then he relaxed. Took a step into the road. Let his cap fall to the ground, exposing his head so his hair could get drenched in rain.
“You don’t have to do it alone.”
She looked at him, hand clamping up where she had once embraced the wobbly concrete. She held it out to the driver, who took it. And then they walked to the middle of the road, right where it took a dramatic curve upward towards the wooded playground where fairies had flown free all those years ago.
They lowered themselves onto the asphalt and let the rain consume them, seeping into their skin and their blood and their cells, until there were no more thoughts and feelings to be had—just the slap of water against concrete, the whistling of the wind, and the knowledge that someday, fairies would fly free around the playground again and the world would be whole.

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