I drove to the gas station late the other afternoon to meet my friend and deliver her son to her after an afternoon of swimming at our house. The sky to the west was dark with promise. I was hoping maybe the rain would fall and end this long dry spell. It’s been hot, hotter than I remember since moving here a few years ago. The grass is dry and crackly underfoot, the leaves on the deciduous trees yellowing, drying, and falling prematurely to the ground. It’s too early to hear the autumn sound of leaves crunching underfoot, too early to see leaves blown by the wind into the pool. I drove back home, heading east, dark clouds behind but following me, obscuring the sun. I pulled into the driveway and a gust of wind scattered crepe myrtle blossoms across the yard. The trees were bending with the wind and the promise seemed assured. Yes, it was going to rain. Bring in the chair cushions, roll up the car windows.
We felt the kind of electric excitement we used to feel when the first large drops spattered into the red dusty earth of our Cameroonian driveway, the way we would feel when we stood on the porch, looking north at the clouds rolling down over the hill into the valley in front of the house, hoping, hoping that rain would come and bring the end of the long dry season. Those first few drops always disappointed. They didn’t amount to anything. The dust still billowed down from the road behind the house, clinging to the laundry on the line. But even though the rain didn’t come, we knew that it would, knew that soon the laundry would hang on the porch, taking three days instead of three hours to dry, or not even have enough time to dry before we needed to wear it again. We knew that we would soon light a fire in the fireplace and set the wooden rack in front of it in the evening to dry socks and underwear. We knew we would exchange the red dust that covered our sandals and colored our legs for mug clinging to the soles of our wet shoes.
I came in the house and the thunder boomed and rumbled. What a sound. The lightning popped close and we unplugged computers and turned off the hot water heater. Still only a few drops spattered, but the wind was blowing hard. We looked out back to see dry leaves, crepe myrtle blossoms, and white plastic lawn chairs swept by the wind into the pool. Never had chairs go in the pool before. What a wind. And then the rain started coming down harder, dancing on the surface of the water in the pool, spattering on the bricks, beading on the wood on the deck. But just like in Cameroon, those first drops disappointed and didn’t amount to anything. The ground was barely wet. The garden barely got a drink. But the heat was dissipated. The temperature dropped sixteen degrees in those fifteen minutes and the air smelled of rain, evaporating quickly from hot ground, bricks, and rocks. It was over too quickly. Will tomorrow bring another storm, another chance of relief?
It’s Sunday evening now and the thunder’s rolling and the rain threatening again. More promise. Will the clouds fulfill this time? Will we get more than a spattering, sprinkling rainfall? We need an honest to goodness gully washer. We need rain that falls and falls and falls, all night long in soft sheets soaking this dry, cracked ground, refreshing the sad, browning hostas and ferns that, even in the shade, look parched and flaccid. I just looked out the window behind me and ooooh it’s dark out there. The rain is falling harder. Maybe today we’ll really get some relief. The lightening is flashing and I’m turning off this computer and heading out to the porch to smell, hear, and feel this storm.