The Girl Who Heard the Rain
By Belle Yau
A black car winds up the sinuous stretch of road, fighting onward against the pounding sheets of rain. The water hurls itself violently at the thin metal doors, drumming icy fingers against the windows.
To me, it sounds almost like music. Here, a violent progression played with an almighty flourish on the piano. There, a maddening crescendo of mingling staccatos and portatos - brass, perhaps? Or maybe orchestra, punctuated at the climax by a crashing of the drums.
And underneath, interwoven, are the delicate notes of the harp " crisp and cool, like rainwater. Nimble fingers - the very ones that weave the fabric of our lives and can, with one slashing, silver snip, tear everything away and facilitate the end - pluck them.
Mother’s huffing brings me back from my thoughts and into reality. Reality is in the dark, a silent road flanked by a tall guard of firm trees. It is we, hurtling through the wet inkiness towards a place unknown. What terrors await us at our destination, what joys? Of the former, I’m sure there are many; of the latter, I’m sure there are few.
Yet we weary travelers forge on and deposit ourselves upon the pebbled pathway of a modest two-story house. Mother unfolds herself from the car and totters off to the door.
She doesn’t look at me, as per usual. Mother hadn’t wanted to come here - “out in the boondocks,” said she. But “the boondocks” seem decent enough. I’ve been told that there is also a lake nearby, which shall suit my purposes quite well. After all, I intend to gain - and so shall Mother, even if she doesn’t realize it quite yet.
The rain still falls as I fetch my bags. It taps my back, bidding me notice. But I refuse to heed its greeting - for once, I am occupied - and enter the house.
The movers have already been here days before with Mother. Everything has already been set up. All of my clothes have also been carted over and hung up; I shudder to think of some sweaty, rank man fingering my clothes. I set down my bag of toiletries on the bed and leave.
Mother has dinner going, hot and freshly microwaved. Thick, pungent aromas lure me in. Despite myself, I am still human enough to be drawn in by the smell.
“Have you unpacked?” Mother’s voice, flat and worn.
I nod. My eyes stay down; I can’t bear to see her tired face.
Give me your tired, your wearied. I shall set them free.
Overhead, the rain sings in lilting mocker of our still silence. The water calls me to attention and commands me to march, but I am a different breed of soldier. I sigh under my breath for it to wait.
Liar, they hiss.
This, I know, is true.
I head to the bathroom and draw a tub of bathwater. It steams gently. I dip my foot in, them my whole self, clothes crumpled at my feet.
This water is quieter than its volatile cousin outdoors, pounding at my roof and at my heart. Yet it is not without its own voice.
Murderess, it hisses. The sibilant sound rings in my ears.
I step out. My history cannot pull me down just yet.
“Mother?” I head to the living room. She’s there on the sofa, but there’s no reply. “I’m going to bed. Good night.”
The rain drums on the roof: good night.
She flinches, turns. I see the hostility in her eyes. “I was talking to you this time, Mother. Just you.” And then I leave.
Already, I can feel my heart cracking into fragments. But it’s all happened before; why should it hurt now? Why does her reticence, her fear, burn me time and time again?
Mother, I am naught but glass. Break me as you wish.
I lay in bed with the covers over my head to drown out the noise. The storm has abated and is now a soft tapping on my windowpane. But the wind still howls, and I have discovered a leak in my room. The drops tap the floor in steady time, forming with the wind the awful chorus: your fault your fault your fault!!
“It’s your burden too,” I reply, “You were the hand that struck him down.”
Now the chorus changes: warned you warned you warned you!!
“What could I have done? I can’t stop you, it’s not my fault.”
And then, one final drumbeat.
I think back to that day so many months ago: the fields, the clouds, the pile of bones. The crows circling overhead, the fire.
He’d wanted to go out; he’d wanted to play. But I was too caught up in myself to pay him any mind. And so, I dismissed him and watched with a careless eye his retreating, toddling figure - the dark brown hair, blue overalls, red shirt growing smaller and smaller in the distance. I returned to my own leisure, ignoring the frantic cries of the rain hovering in the sky and waiting to come down.
Save him save him save him save him save him…
But I retired to my room instead and buried myself deep in sleep, so deep that I didn’t even hear the thunder or the screams, the cawing of the crows. I didn’t hear the rain pounding my door with heavy hands or hear it shouting at me, as it had done all my life.
I was, I am, the girl who heard the rain. And I am a failure. When the time came for me to save a life, I turned my back instead and shut out the voices of the storm. This power is a curse, as am I. The people in my life have slowly slipped away from me, like water through clumsy fingers.
Mother. You are the only one left. But fear not, for I shall set you free. I shall liberate you from the scrim of the Earth, from your womb, from me. No more shall you be shackled by the death of your one precious son. No longer shall you have to dram of fields, feathers, and flames. The pile of bones, every curve and groove etched into your eyes, shall fade. You shall no longer see their startling innocent whiteness, picked clean by the scorching bolt. I shall atone for the sins of the lightning by paying with my death.
Unto yourself do as you would to others. And so I shall.
A window, opened. Rain spatters through, icing my feet. I have changed into my heaviest dress - floor-length, wine-red, and dense.
I am naught but one of you. Let me join your ranks.
The rain picks up. Wind crashes against the house and shakes every limb in the surrounding trees. It throws my heavy skirt against my legs, rattles the bodice against my chest, and crawls beneath my sleeves like a winding snake. It pushes on my back and howls: go, go. I take a step forth and it pushes me out of the window before gently ferrying me down. A few feet ahead, lightning flares and hits the ground in a thin ribbon.
Follow, drones the deep bass in the chorus of rain. So I do, picking up my wine-red skirts and following the light. It strikes as I run - always a few feet ahead, always in a thin molten stream.
And then I see it.
It is deep and wide. Black trees surround half, and tall grass the other.
The lightning strikes the lake in the midst just once.
I set one foot in, then another, then my whole self. I am afloat, face-up and staring at the clouds.
One last breath…
And then the hands of the water reach out and lay their icy palms on my body. I need no pocketfuls of stones.
The water drags me downwards, clawing at my dress, my hair, my limbs. It swirls around me and chokes me. But I do not resist. I have been waiting for this final moment for too long.
Far above my numbed and furrowed body, the rain falls into the lake. My eyes begin to blur, but I can still see the oscillations. They’re beautiful.
At last. At last, I am absolved. At last, I am free.