Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit! It's barely past noon and it's already started raining. The weather forecast flashes in front of my eyes as I leave the front door: a bright yellow sun hanging loosely on the screen, covered on one side by precipitous raindrops and on the other by foreboding clouds. Risk of thunderstorm. Alert. Alert.
My bike sits chained to the rack where she left it; too bad I missed her this morning. Since I woke up I worried if she had remember the combination to the lock or not (thank God she did). Maybe that's what the call was about earlier. Had I managed to stay awake long enough to call back I would have known for sure. On my way out of the parking lot I notice a couple, lying together in the grass below the billboard. That could have been us below that billboard, had I only picked up my damn phone.
I start biking home and wonder if I'll make it to my doorstep before the real downpour begins. This was just a taste, a drizzle, teasing and playing with us, an appetizer for the meal that was about to come: a three-course platter of lightning, thunder, and gale force winds, and a light rain embossed in a stale humid air for dessert.
It's typical for someone to picture the worst scenarios while commuting home during harsh weather conditions: family members trapped between cars in highway ditches; children struck by lightning under trees near playgrounds; fathers driving on a highway during a snow storm Jack Frost-style, seconds from crashing. I picture myself in a tornado, spinning endlessly on my bike with my hands gripping the handlebars and my legs kicking violently. I'm the cow from Twister, moo-ing my way through a whirlpool of dust and debris. I'm little Dorothy, caught in a storm; but instead of a house all I have are two wheels and some pedals, and my Kansas is just Central Ontario. My Oz is my imagination.
Even now as I hurry past the red fire hydrants, the left-behind yard toys, and the unchained bicycles across numbers of front porches that are soon to been air-raided by my imaginary typhoon, for a just a single moment I let go of my sense of urgency and focus my attention on the raindrops hitting my forehead. They cool my skin in ways that a splash of icy water from the sink could never do, for they aren't frozen but merely chilly. They tease my skin with the promise of refreshment, prolonging my enjoyment as the time interval between each drop shortens. Not even the fatigue and soreness I was beginning to feel in my thighs from the strain of biking is noticeable anymore. It's not easy to depart from the physical world when you're in motion (and not very safe), but once you do it truly is something to enjoy, to be proud of. Letting go relieves stress and eliminates anxiety. It doesn't eliminate the conflict, just like painkillers don’t eliminate the cause of the pain; but it provides a temporary solace, so that once you’re refreshed you may think more rationally when faced with bigger problems, those that even painkillers can’t fix.
Pulling up to my driveway I see my reflection in our large living room window from across the lawn. My hair looks half-soaked and disheveled, and my pants are splattered with mud. Today is the last day of school, and I have nothing to show for it but a backpack full of hand-outs that will soon fill the recycling bin up to the brim, or burn bit by bit in the fireplace. Nothing at all is different about today’s arrival home on my bike than on any previous day throughout the year. Judging by this weather, it surely doesn't feel like summer. Maybe a week later it will settle in. Maybe once July comes the sun will show itself, and I'll get to sleep in on a Saturday morning without that feeling of having wasted half a day, that I get so often on school-year weekends.