for Mary Ruefle
Every time it starts to rain, I would like to have sex. I’ve felt this way since before I knew what sex was. When I was a child and it began to rain I removed myself quietly from the company of siblings and clawed off their hand-me-down hi-tops and out of their shirts and shorts and crawled into my parents’ bed to roll their scents onto my skin. I nuzzled my cheek into Mother’s gentle silk pillow and smelled her hair and hugged my arms around Father’s rough-seeming flannel and felt his beard on my lips when he would kiss me goodnight. I was allowed this pleasure because I was a good child. Silent. Obedient. Not too thoughtful to make trouble. Sometimes when it is raining and the window of my classroom is pelted with rain that appears at a side-angle I flush and perspire under my arms and on my upper lip and at the nape of my neck and I must dismiss my students immediately. Someone—generally a student that has been sullen and withdrawn all semester—will ask if everything is all right. I will keep a special eye on him for the rest of the term and barring some unforgivable offense give him an A for the course because I can and no one knows to stop me. I watch as they gather their books and file out. I put down my chalk or Dry Erase marker and shut the door behind them. I never lock it but I often turn out the lights. I go to the desk in the corner farthest from the window and tremble as I wait. Sometimes the seat is still warm from the body of a student. When lightning comes I press two fingers to my neck and count the light thud of my heartbeats until the thrill of thunder comes. Once a bird hit the window and I went to the glass and touched the smudge. When I discovered the window could be jimmied opened I maneuvered my body through the uncomfortable space and dropped to my knees in the dirt and picked up the animal and cradled it. It was lighter than I thought it would be. Its wings sharper, its feathers warm as biscuits. I kissed its belly and set it down then sat back against the brick and let the rain ruin my mascara. I am an odd one. I have always known this. With the smell of the dirt and grass beneath me I thought that someone somewhere must be like me, must also be standing or sitting in a rainstorm with her arms straight out, palms facing God, wondering why we all feel so alone and why the sting of rain takes a little of that away for a time. And I felt in the pit of my pelvis a pang or a push not unlike the rush and flutter of initial penetration. I rubbed the heels of my palms into the soft parts of the grass and imagined my lover at home, waiting for me in the kitchen, our house heavy with the odor of stew.
Author’s note: I love Mary Ruefle’s prose collection, The Most of It (Wave Books). Sometimes I reread the whole of it, cover to cover, and sometimes I pick it up and randomly reread the first page I flip to. Almost always I spend a moment with “Snow,” the first in the collection. Something about it feels so personal, so raw, so weird and wonderful and delightful all at once. So I couldn’t help but write “Rain,” a response piece that attempts to retain the elements I love most — Ruefle’s amazing opening line, her seeming confessionalism, her fascination with death and earth, and, of course, that unsettling and stunning creepiness she hints at beautifully throughout.