The Rainy Street

English: Storm drain overflowing during heavy ...
English: Storm drain overflowing during heavy rain on University Dr in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The street at night was covered with a sheet of rain. It washed down the gutter in a rush, filling the storm drains.  It was late, but not so late that the neon was off. The rain washed street reflected the orange and red and blue.

A figure hunched over from the rain, as if hunching over in a hoodie would somehow keep the rain off.  The rain would seep right in that cotton whether you were hunched over or standing straight up. The figure paused and started up the concrete steps, cracked with time and slippery from the rain.

Fumbling with the keys, and let into the foyer.  Always when it’s raining it feels like a violation to drip on the dry linoleum. Even though it’s cracked and chipped, you bring the rain inside.

Calling up the stairs to see if granma is still up.  “You still up, Granma?” Trying to get out of soaking hoodie and the sweater mom makes you wear even though you hate the color.  Granma made it.

Granma’s up, and she always yells down: “Don’t you be dripping on my linoleum!” Where else would you drip? But you’ve always got to answer: “No, ma’am,” or tomorrow there’ll be a long call to mamma, and mamma will tell you to be careful of the linoleum in that tired voice.

Up the stairs to the second floor where the only light is.  Granma lives alone in the apartment building, even though the family doesn’t like it.  She says the renters are too much trouble, and she likes the apartments empty.

For granma, the apartments aren’t empty. She still remembers all the people who used to live there. Sometimes you can almost hear Mr. Bertucci, who used to sing along with the opera on Sunday afternoons, throwing his windows wide and twirling around his apartment. Madame Pompadour on the first floor with so many Persian cats no one could count them all.  On still nights you can almost smell the cats, and once when you came home there was cat hair stuck to your sneaker. Then there was the Vietnamese couple who always cooked the really weird smelling food. Granma loves to tell about the time they invited her to dinner. You’ll huddle around granma’s space heater in her apartment that hasn’t been refurnished since the 1950’s, the upholstery all cracked and patched in places. She tells how they got her to try all those strange dishes.  That’s why granma only eats Vietnamese take out now, her old coffee table covered with menus from the take out places. One of them gave her a gold star for being a frequent eater.

The apartment house isn’t empty for granma. It’s full of memories and sounds from another time. You listen to her talk while you wait for mom to get off the swing shift at the five and dime, the last one left in the city.

Then you hear mom honking and head down the stairs, forgetting the sweater drying on granma’s radiator. As she drives home, momma talks about the people she remembers from granma’s apartment. For a little while, she looks younger and not as tired.

Maybe life isn’t made up of the big things.  Maybe life is made up of the little things that we remember.

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