This could've been me. Except I was wearing shorts. And I'm white.
In a move that will surprise few and amuse some, I stepped out of the noon yoga class yesterday (where be-tatted and be-dreaded bartenders and estheticians run free) and into a light rain.
Picture, if you will: I have scaled back my noontime excursion to the bare necessities. Aside from being clothed, I have my yoga bag, clothes, keys, bus pass, iPod, and phone.
And my umbrella.
Because, hey! It looks like it might rain.
Yoga is a relief: upside-down, twisted, free-breathing relief. Sometimes overwhelmed by the details and emotions of my own life, yoga is the only thing that keeps me from breaking typing records and consecutive hours regarding lack-of-sleep.
It slows me down so that I can breathe.
Within moments of leaving yoga, however, I am having trouble with that very thing.
Initially, the rain comes in big drops. I pick up the pace – six blocks to the bus stop and then jiggity-jig, this little piggie is on her way home.
In seconds the storm has me engulfed. Lightning tears across the sky, immediately followed by incredible thunder.
The umbrella blows inside out.
Torn from my hands and looking like an extra from an it-came-from-the-hall-closet horror movie, my black umbrella shoots a dozen feet from me before I can chase it down and plant a sandaled foot on it. Although completely useless now, I can’t see it tumbling, broken, down the street.
That umbrella and I used to be close.
This stretch of Washington has very little on it. At one point I stand in a bus stop for about 10 minutes but, already drenched, choose to slog on. The rain comes in blinding sheets. I hang my head and push into the wind. Gasping for air, my face, legs, and arms are soon numb.
The temperature has dropped at least 15 degrees.
I reach the bus stop, a post on the sidewalk, where I stand next to a retaining wall that hides my bottom half from the wind. Standing water swirls around my feet. I hang my head and close my eyes. I estimate my yoga bag to weigh around 30 pounds.
I haven’t seen another person for three blocks now.
The bus stop itself is on the street, 20 yards from the retaining wall. Across the four-lane street is an enclosed bus stop. Two men are standing in it, and I cannot hear them but can see the blurry outlines of their arms. They are gesturing for me. I step away from the retaining wall.
The flag flying at the apartment building across the parking lot next to me shoots straight up and then drops straight down.
A brilliant streak of light splits the dark early-afternoon sky seemingly directly above my head. The cracking sound it produces is immediate and terrifying. I scream and throw myself on the ground.
Surprisingly, I do not get any wetter than I already am.
I lay there for a moment and wonder if it’s possible that any of the street cameras have caught my terror.
The #10 bus comes. I stand up. It will take me to within six blocks of my house.
I smile wanly at the bus driver.
“You’re wet,” he says.
I walk to the back of the bus. It is bracingly refrigerated.
It is also almost empty, but I stand rather than sit, unwilling to ruin a seat for the next person. A Native American woman smiles at me, nods at the broken ribs of my umbrella. “I have an umbrella just like that,” she says.
Water runs from my legs, from my hair, pools at my feet. I look to clear my glasses but find I have nothing dry to wipe them with. I take out my phone, try to take pictures. It is non-responsive.
I don’t dare look at my iPod.
My teeth are chattering by the time I de-bus.
Six blocks to go. The rain has been reduced to what would still qualify as heavy, and I take off my sandals.
The first two blocks are downhill, and at the bottom of it is a woman in a stalled car, the water up to her doors. I wave at her, and she waves back.
A little further and the water in the streets has gone from mid-shin to above my knees.
A pick-up truck roars by and sends a wall of water into me as high as my shoulders. “Thank you!” I shout.
Aside from fallen tree branches in the street and the insistent whine of sirens on unseen vehicles, the rest of the walk is unremarkable, and I enter the house to the worried looks and ankle-winding-ministrations of the cats.
And I take a very hot bath.
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