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Memory and rain
Short story


April 26, 2005

Rain in San Francisco is similar to rain in Seattle, especially some place green like Funston Avenue where I live, but rain in Seattle belongs. Rain comes down in Seattle like the whole city has been waiting for it, waiting for it in a way that's just between the city and the rain, and that the people between the two can't understand. All they can do is get wet or not get wet.

Every city has something, something that goes back to before it was a city, and in Seattle it's rain. The rain has a relationship with the aspects of the city that came with the city and with the aspects that were always there. It looks like everything finds itself again when it rains, and it is because there is so much memory locked in the rain. The grass remembers what it is, a lover of rain. The lake remembers what it is, a home for it. The buildings and streets remember that they were built with rain in mind, by people whom the rain had gotten into.

I would remember something too, because so much of what I'd learned had been in the rain. I'd learned that rain was nothing to get mad at, for one thing. It had everything that a sunny day had, it just took a little more effort. I would wake up in the morning and on the news there would be days when our little corner of the country was the only place where it was raining. But I couldn't get mad at it because it was too true, it was too true and the puddles and the worms and the streetlights lighting up the rain in the dark were too true. It was the world, and the rain falling in it as usual was accepting of me, so I didn't think I shouldn't be accepting of it. There were things to get mad at if getting mad was your interest, and those things were there on sunny days too, which was why I didn't understand why a sunny day was a big deal.

I had to leave Seattle and come to a place where the sun was as natural as the rain had been there in order to understand it. When I first felt how it was to wake up in the morning and see the sun in the blue sky day after day, I thought that there was something unsustainable about it. I thought that whatever worth a sunny day had, it must get lost when it happened every day like that. But it had a worth outside of being something that came in between rain. It had a worth in the way it was just as accepting as the rain had been. It went with the city too well to do anything else. I had been worried that I would lose the memory of rain I had of Seattle because the sun that was accepting of me was the one thing that everybody wanted to accept and be accepted by.

But the city was the place where it belonged. It could be the sun in the morning coming up across the bay and giving a cleanness to even the dirtiest parts of the city, or the sun in the evening out over the ocean, easing everybody into the night, and either way, there was nothing wrong with an acceptance of the thing that everybody accepted. It was still your own, and it couldn't be what it was to you if it wasn't what it was to everybody. And when it fell, it could have whatever connotation they wanted it to have. It could have the connotation of the beach or the park to them and not that of a man sitting in his room all day trying to write, coming out and walking to the pool hall across the street for a cup of coffee, walking back across and saying hello to the sun at the end of the street, which was also the end of the land. It was the same thing as far as unlocking the memory of where we were.

But it had been a great thrill to have come to understand that I was part of a place in a place where rain was how I came to understand it, because it was an understanding that I came to on my own. There were no stories and dreams about rain the way there were about the sun. I had to get my stories and dreams a little less from people and a little more from plants and trees, which looked like they had some good ones. I had to get them from myself, and when I did, it proved something I had been suspecting for a while, that one person could believe in a gray sky the way the whole world believed in a blue one. It wasn't any grayer of a belief, because that sky had shaped me, and any notions of the peace that I was after had come under it. It could make a blue sky seem too simple, too easily understood, and I didn't have anything against it, I just needed some peace and quiet in order to find out who I was, and I couldn't do it when it was sunny and everybody was trying to do that.

I was glad to live somewhere where the rain could make that effort seem solitary, because it was solitary. But after a while, I felt like I had gotten all I could get out of it. I liked rain because it was a good thing to have around while exploring solitude. It could make it seem like that was what the world was exploring too. But I knew that I would be doing that wherever I was. Rain was good for a boy because a boy wants to think that nobody understands him, and if he sees something in the rain that nobody else does, then that seems to prove it. But I began wanting to have everybody understand me when I began to write, and there was nothing wrong with the sun because a writer's premise is that they already understand him. They're out there walking around on the sunniest day ever understanding him, all they need is the book, and he has to find the book in that day, and he can have an easier time finding it having had a lot of practice finding it in the rainy ones.

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