The liquid memory that stays in your heart

It rained last night for the first time in months. I was surprised by the sound, because it came with so many memories. Sound, more than any other sense, holds history for me. Rain has been a soundtrack to so much of my life growing up on the wet west coast of Canada that it plays like a brilliant score that makes afternoons or dark nights cinematic with liquid sound.

I remember running in the rain down the street to my first boyfriend’s house, my cheap cloth shoes bought from a chinese grocery mart because well, everyone seemed to think they were cool back then, but they were utterly useless in the rain. I always arrived by his basement window with soaking wet feet and hair, rapping gently then crawling through into the cocoon of his room, with every inch of wall covered in rock posters, the warm smell of a room that contains mostly bed, and incense mixed with stacks of vinyl and leftover roaches. When I told my mother I was going to the Victor’s she certainly didn’t picture this in her mind but it was so lovely to escape the pestilent rain and curl up with tea and listen for hours to my boyfriend play guitar, meandering from Django Reinhardt to Paul Simon and through a haze of  bong-inspired rock. Lying there, listening to the rain beat down on the windows, escaping into love, I only worried about getting home in time for dinner and running back in the torrential rain across busy west 10th avenue, being extra careful crossing in the dark gray November night as car tires zoomed loudly by on the wet road.

I had learned to be careful crossing streets in the rain because I was hit by a car when I was five during a rainstorm. A bloom of clouds hung on the horizon that morning, my first day of school, and threatened darkly over the northshore mountains. Sure enough, at lunch, they had released their fury and since we were told to cross with the cross walk guards (who were now gone, why I’ll never know) I stayed on the sidewalk, waiting obediently for someone in authority to cross me. My brothers were on the other side, screaming with hunger (we went home for lunch), yelling at me to cross, cross, cross! So, feeling intense pressure in my little chest, I chose to break the imaginary law and darted out suddenly into the four lane road that was a main artery up to the University of British Columbia.

A car was at that moment plummeting down the hill towards the cross walk. It and I met and it tossed me like a small coin in the air and I flew through the wet sky and skidded (I was told 60 feet but no way to know) headfirst into a curb. I don’t remember much other than the blue furry seat cover of the back seat of the car that hit me then drove me home if you can imagine, my mom holding me, then the dark ICU and the sound of intermittent beeping of another comatose patient. My coat saved me the nurse whispered to me, stroking my forehead. I wasn’t going to admit I liked that ugly coat just because of that and gave her a half-cocked smile. Outside, down the long window at the end of the intensive care unit rain streamed down, the only warmth  a small pool of calm light around the nurse’s station at the end of the hall.

I’m hardwired to be careful in the rain since, hanging back while others run, looking an extra few times before stepping out.

I remember the rain the day my son was born. Socked in, the storm had sat down on the coast like a heavy beast, unmovable, crawling into every nook and cranny with its dank reach, leaching into your bones and dampening your heart if you let it. I held my newborn and looked out the window to the forest beyond the small hospital and made many promises I have kept and always will to him. In those first few months, the rain locked us in a lovely embrace of newfound love and beginning smiles and sacred moments only a mother can know with her child in the belly of the night, nursing quietly as rain crept down the bedroom window softly, soothing out our tired edges and lulling us back into sleep. That wet winter, I would visit my elderly mother, and she would make tea, and the rains would come down and she would flip the pages of her novel, her eyes closing as her head would go slack into sleep and my son on cue would also doze, the only sound the wet trees hitting the window now and then as the winds howled up from the sea.

But last night the rain came with a fresher memory that I was not prepared for. I had my door open, and there are heavy tree boughs all around my apartment, and I stood to listen to the rain fall. I’d not heard rain come through them yet having moved here in the summer which had been long and dry. I stood on the deck and listened, realizing the rain sounded exactly like the rain I heard last year when I stayed at the Wickanninish Inn. For new readers, you won’t know the story, but I was very in love at the time. (You can read about it here for some exposition should you be inclined). The Wick is of course known for its incredible storms and we were there during one that even the staff said was quite out of the ordinary. It gushed and sluiced down every rivet of bark, sand, road, pathway, drain pipe, hammering against the picture window of our room, draining out into the sea only to come roaring back onto the shore, the foam and fog and mist making the world entirely oceanic with us inside by a  warm fire, escaping into a secret world that contained hours in moments, days in hours, lifetimes in every night.

The sound of rain against a window, through trees, may carry this memory for a long time. How long? I don’t know. Maybe always. I didn’t expect it last night but now I know. That sound, that particular sound, is threaded through time to that window in Room 11.

Like crossing the street in the rain, I’ll put on a lifesaving device around my heart, and try to wait out the storm.

5 Comments

Filed under Memoir, Non-fiction

5 responses to “The liquid memory that stays in your heart

  1. Monica

    I love this story. The sound of rain is an incredibly powerful memory driver for me, and so is its scent. I remember the day you were hit by a car, it was unthinkable that the youngest child in our brood might actually die… it was a collective inhale of fear for our large family. So glad you had your fuzzy coat on! And I never, ever thought I would miss the rain, having moved to sunny California, but I do. I really, really do……

    • Thanks M. I love that–‘scent’–so true and now remember when I was living in San Diego how I missed the rain too. It carries so much memory with it of our childhoods. I am also happy for my ugly coat.:)

  2. radjuli

    so beautiful! you really nail a sensation with your words, beautiful lady! hope your new place is awesome!

  3. littlewhitepagan

    What an invigorating story!

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