I’m sitting in my study looking out the window through the big green leaves of some bush planted right in front of my window. Another gray day, but this one is getting grayer, and darker, and I’m sure it’s going to rain soon. I feel like we all need a good rain. Something to sweep away the dust and mold and oppression of the last year. It’s actually kind of comforting. When I was a kid, you weren’t allowed to play in the rain. You might get polio. Our neighbor’s son had polio, walked with crutches and braces on his legs. He was a cool kid, I liked talking to him and just hanging out. We were maybe 10 years old. But when it rained, I wanted to run out there and splash in the water and look up with my mouth open and see how long it would take to get a mouthful of water. “What are you? Crazy!” my mother would yell, “You’ll get polio. Get in the house this minute.” Whenever it rains here in Los Angeles, that’s what I want to do — run out there and feel those rain drops and open my mouth and see how long it would take for it to fill up with water. Cleansing rain. When we bought our house the year after Josh was born — almost 30 years ago — I remember sitting out on the side porch, lying down on the bench, and watching the rain — no, actually feeling the rain, that chill and dampness becoming something more, rain rain rain. That was the hardest thing for me to get used to when I moved to Los Angeles. The sun. All that sun and brightness. Jesus, when was it going to rain! I couldn’t write unless it rained, unless dark thick black clouds gathered across the sky and threatened universal doom. Then I could write. With all that sun, all I wanted to do was play tennis, hike up to the Cucamonga Wilderness, lay out there in the sun. Who the hell can write in all that sunshine? It took me awhile, but I finally figured it out. Now, I find the darkness and gloom inside of me. The sun can be out, shining on all of us, sparkly clean, blue sky, maybe a few white clouds, everyone jogging and driving around going somewhere, but I had the gloom inside of me. All I had to do was rummage around for it. My father coming home drunk at 2am. My mother slapping me in the face if I did something wrong. The damp air coming off the Mississippi River. The fear that my father would die in a traffic accident or my mother would finally go through with the divorce she was always threatening whenever my dad got drunk, storming into the house, breaking the mirror in the bathroom, driving off in a huff to find another bar, another motel near the airport. Yeah, I can find the damp gloom inside of me, no matter how much the sun shines, no matter how blue the skies get, not matter how many people jog by looking so healthy and fit, I want to throw a tomato at them. I can see them yelling at me, “What’d you do that for?” and I could yell back, “I’m a fucking writer, you idiot, what’d you expect?!?!?”
I just looked out the window again. It’s pouring rain, coming down in buckets, filling the gutters and pelting the windows. Cold and broken. The minor fall. The major lift. Hallelujah!