“Rain in the Night”


Rain in the Night

I crept out of bed and stood peering through my window one night before a rainstorm. I’d been lying on my back, sheets pulled up under my arms, watching light flash onto the opposite wall — white light cut in six squares by the window grid. Then I would close my eyes and wait for the groan of thunder to vibrate through my mattress and tingle my bones.

But for the ting of cold water droplets against my windowpane I’d listened without result. So I flung back the covers and got up, and with my hands resting on the sill I stared through the glass at the night. Above the trees that surround our house a half-moon squinted through a rent in the thick spread of clouds muffling the sky.

I snapped open the bolt on the window and slid the lower pane up. The May breeze slipped inside, eddying the light curtains, another flicker of lightning brightened the distance behind the trees, and I smelled the humid air clinging to leaves and gliding over the grass.

I unbraided my hair, thunder rumbling under my feet. Then, in T-shirt and pajama pants with my long brown kinks trailing down my back, I climbed through the open window onto the roof in the summer-night air. Crouched on the gritty tiles, one hand still gripping the window frame, again I caught the fluttering blink of light away in the distance promising rain. Releasing my hold, I scooted myself down and settled with my knees drawn up to my chest and my arms circled around my legs, my feet pressed flat against the tiles.

The world shuddered with thunder again. A moment later the tree-silhouettes began to waver, and I heard the wind shivering through the leaves, upturning their pale undersides like shimmering scales reflecting moonlight. Then I sensed the night’s breath against my skin, fresh and full of force, the wind splashing over me and washing through my hair. I felt its energy penetrate me and seep through my limbs like the blood spilling through my body.

Cold pricked my foot. I let my eyelids fall closed, and I tilted back my head. A second droplet struck wet on my elbow, and a third on my hand. A fourth plopped on my face near my eye and I blinked, looking up at the smooth vault of clouds. I stopped counting as more raindrops fell with quickening pace, stinging soft on my skin. As the rain sprinkled faster and heavier, another glare of lightning smeared the horizon, for one half-moment glinting in all the hundreds of midair raindrops and making the world speckled against darkness. Another crack of thunder ripped through the gusted rustling leaves.

Streaks of my hair stuck to my forehead, as beads of water slid down my nose and cheeks. I kept blinking away the drops on my eyelashes that blurred my sight. And then, it might have been my damp shirt sending goosebumps down my arms, but I felt (with a kind of a rapture) a deep chill stir my body, swelling my heart’s pulse and rippling beneath my skin like a breath of wind over water. With a quiet thrill of ecstasy, I sensed that something strange had slipped inside me—or rather, that something had slipped out of me, and now for a moment lingered, lost.

I sat still, during that seam of time unaware of myself and only conscious of the crumbly tile under my feet and the sleek strokes of rain veiling me and drumming my skin and the scuttling sound of droplets on a thousand leaves.

When my pajamas and my hair were soaked through, I crawled back into my bedroom and slid the window closed, as lightning flung its ghost past me on the wall. Whatever I’d lost for an instant out on the roof, I sensed inside me again, but with a kind of age or absence in its presence.

I wrung my dripping hair, stripped off my shirt and pants, and slipped into a fresh pair of pajamas before climbing back into bed. As I lay hugging the warm sheets, I watched the tint and tremor of lightning through my closed eyelids, and I listened to the quarrel between thunder and the leaf-flurrying wind, and I strayed asleep dreaming of petrichor and a damp dawn.

© 2015, Rachelle Ferguson