Friday evening, I chose the rain jacket instead of the umbrella. Tornado watch and gray skies and not enough energy to fight the flight of a cheap umbrella, if and when.
I chose the light blue NorthFace rain jacket I bought in the LLBean flagship store, because of course, and packed tightly in my overnight bag for my Spring Break 2008 trip to DC. The one that got wet even in my bag, when we got caught in a downpour in NYC while running for our train at Penn Station from our train at Grand Central, because of course. A downpour so drenching it soaked through our bags and flooded our clothes. We ran blocks in this rain for the train, worried we would miss it. Two blocks in we laughed and turned our faces up to the rain and screeched. A release. When we arrived, still wet, in Annapolis, we put all of our clothes in the dryer, including the rain jacket, because of course.
Friday evening, on my seven minute walk home from the subway, the sky spit a couple of times and then burst open. Within less than a minute, my rolled up pants soaked up all the rain and then proceeded to drip down my calves and puddle around my feet. My sandals went from slippery to sponges, pooling my toes in rain water with every step. I shoved my bag under my rain jacket and hoped my phone in my pocket would repel at least some of the water. It occurred to me that I had never actually worn the rain jacket in the rain. I didn’t know if it was water proof or water resistant and it seemed to be raining so hard that it almost didn’t matter.
I thought about running. But there wasn’t really a point. I could not get any wetter. The strand of hair hanging out of my hood dripped onto my jacket and rivers ran down the front creating an almost-waterfall into the sidewalk. The puddles at intersections too large to jump over, and rivers of rain flowed against the curb, so I walked through them.
I walked home with a slow step and enjoyed the rain. I could not save myself from the it, I could not get any wetter, so I walked home and enjoyed having the sidewalk to myself — everyone else huddled under overhangs with their umbrellas in front of them as shields.
I remembered the early years of high school, before we had cars, when we would walk in the rain to the beach, hoping for a downpour. How we planned to walk on the rainiest days, miles downtown, miles back, in the warm rain and drenched clothes. How alive it made us feel — squealing, faces turned up the sky, tiny streams flowing down our faces. The warmth of the rain cooling the hotness of our skin and the steam rising from the pavement. The smell of the first downpour of the day. The heaviness of our clothes wrapped around us, clinging to us, how the fabric feels so differently when it’s warm and wet and heavy.
I walked home and let my jeans be warm and wet and heavy. I let the streams roll down my legs and waterfall off my jacket. I thought about turning my face up to the sky and squealing, the way I did when I was 14.
When I got home, I squished up the stairs and left my sponge shoes at the doorway of my apartment. I peeled off my pants in my bedroom and learned my rain jacket, after all these years, is waterproof and not just water resistant. I didn’t have a drop of rain on my top. I took it off anyway and thought maybe it was a bit of a waste — this rain jacket that worked so well. I took my shirt off anyway. And I missed the feel of the warm rivers of rain on my face, falling over my shoulders, and drenching my shirt.
I missed the feel of the total immersion in a downpour. The kind that drenches you from head to toe and even the rain jacket, packed so carefully in the middle of your overnight bag. The laughter, the squeals, the release.