I live in the desert. At least, they call it the desert. I guess that’s just a classification that tells us what would be here if we weren’t, because I look around and I see houses and cars and businesses, I see roads and sidewalks and lawns of green grass and in some places ivy just covering the ground and climbing up trees and walls, and if I get up on one of the big rocks we call mountains around here I get the sense that desert surrounds us but that the city is too, too green to be a desert. They say that it is because we are in a desert that we get such heat in the summer, and so little rain all year, and I suppose that in a meteorological sense we may in fact be in a desert because it does seem awfully hot here in the summers and we do only get rain a few times every year.
Except I’ve never known anything else, really. Because they tell me it is unconscionably hot here during the summer, I have imagined that other places must be more mild at the same time. Because they tell me that our air is dry, I have tried to imagine that other places must be wet. I have not been to these mild, wet places, I only imagine them. Sometimes I notice though that people in places I never expected to be that way (New York, NY or Chicago, IL for instance) are complaining about temperatures in triple digits in the summer and more deaths from heat stroke than we ever get. I like to imagine that people who are told they are in a desert are also told to get enough water and stay out of the heat, and that the people in other places believed they were in those mild climes I have also imagined and were simply unprepared for the reality that it gets hot in the summer.
I imagine that in England it is very wet a lot of the time. I have been watching a lot of BBC America in recent months and have seen some evidence of this, but on the whole it seems that the weather in the British Isles is beautiful and mild much of the time. They have hot summers and cold winters like everyone else, and they do seem to get quite a bit more rain than we do here in our ‘desert’, but overall it seems a very pleasant place to be much of the time. So i have trouble reconciling my imaginary England where the streets are always slicked with rain and everyone must be prepared for precipitation at any time with the one I see in the TV shows they actually film there; they can’t possibly just be filming between showers all the time, can they?
I have to imagine what precipitation must be like in other places because I have never seen it, and when I do I like to imagine that it is different from precipitation here. I like to imagine that if it had rained an hour ago someplace else, the ground might still be wet. An hour ago I went outside and stood in the rain for several minutes, just taking in the texture of it and watching the lightning leap from cloud to cloud silently above and around me. It was not torrential, but everything I could see was wet and the sky was so thick with clouds that it glowed a beautiful pink/orange as the clouds reflected the lights of the city. I was thinking of someone I stood in the rain with about a year ago, and how much her life has changed since then and how little mine has. I just looked outside and … the ground is dry.
There is a low spot in my driveway where the water likes to pool, and there is a small puddle still there, but the rain that fell everywhere else, on the sidewalks and in the street and on the cars and the grass and every other thing that was sparkling reflections of the orange sky slickly upon my eye an hour before was now dry as they say this desert should be. The only wet thing remaining is the air around me and the clouds above; the clouds let us see what they were made of and then took back what they had offerred up as the water evaporated right back into the pink and orange glow above.
Did I really stand in the rain? I see a towel there by the door that I used to dry off, I feel the wet air sticking to my skin like my hands after making a peanut butter and preserves sandwich, and I remember standing in the rain. Except that I remember going out and standing in the rain a year ago. In these same shorts and in that same spot in the street. The only difference was the girl. Perhaps I have created a new memory by simply erasing the face that I don’t get to see anymore from the memory of something that could never happen again, creating a memory of something that could happen again. I could stand in the rain again, I know I can. If it can rain again.
Reality is so fragile, and memory is inadequate to corral the past in my mind. Things become familiar and I can’t tell their past from the present. I have to re-arrange my furniture or move nomadically from one residence to another pretty frequently, or I can’t keep events properly catalogued in my head. Like, I have no idea what order the last three times I saw Sara occurred in because they occurred away from my home so I have no point of reference, even though I know the calendar date of one of them. So now I have to refer to each one as ‘one of the last times I saw Sara’ and can’t be sure which was the last. They all were treated like the last at the time, which doesn’t help. I can remember that standing in the Rain with the girl who isn’t around anymore was sometime around a year ago, but not longer, because I know it was at this house right after I moved in, which was something like 54 weeks ago.
I know what year I last saw Amanda because I know what year I started working at MicroAge; I went to see her and got the job there within a couple of weeks. I know that the first time I dated Melissa was in the first half of ’95 because I have a photo of her at my graduation and I graduated class of ’95. I know I started at Realink in January of 2000 because everyone there was expecting to see me with long hair and I got it cut off 1/1/2000, just weeks before starting there. I remember the last time I dated Sara ended in February ’98, and I know it was ’98 because I was living in the 1 bedroom apartment Art and I shared from August ’97 to August ’98. I can remember, or at least figure out, when any one of my residences or jobs started and ended by a matter of subtraction, but only back to November ’96 when I got my first job. Before that I have to figure things out by postmarks and by putting clues together.
I don’t know how anyone else’s memory works, like I don’t know how other places’ precipitation works. I don’t know if it is normal for the world to dry up within an hour of rain, at night. I don’t know whether other people can just remember when things happened without having to picture the event in their minds, figure out what the setting was and extrapolate when they would have been in that setting mathematically to figure out dates. I just know what goes on in my own mind and in my own life and it frustrates me to no end. I worry that I might think the wrong way or imagine the wrong things or who knows what other idiosyncrasies may be totally normal to me and totally foreign to those around me.
I’m like that bear with the teeth and the claws that can’t figure out how to get the bunny, too. I don’t know how to get from A to B, even when I have an A-to-B machine at the ready. I don’t know how she went from someone who didn’t want to get into any serious relationships while she went back to school to someone in what looks to be the permanent sort of relationship with a baby expected to arrive within the next 4-6 weeks (if I’m remembering properly). I’ve known her for a long time and she wasn’t the type to accidentally get pregnant, but I didn’t see the moment where she went from wanting to focus on making herself the person she wanted to be and avoid entangling herself with other people and their desires to wanting to start a family. Maybe there was an epiphany.
Where is my epiphany? Where is my mate? Heck, where is someone who even just wants to become close to me? Or the rain. Where is the rain? I thought I saw it a little while ago, but now I feel like I must have dreamed it. Is the idea of me in a relationship also just a dream concocted in my fallible memory from bits and peices of other things I have seen and heard? How can I know?