Cold Rain

I BOARDED the train in front of a man, a woman and their small kid, plus another in a stroller. I’m not used to the noise on the train as I usually wear headphones; I wasn’t this time. We departed and a train flashed by in the opposite direction with a booming swooosh. The window rattled. Men in suits chatted loudly and a baby started crying. I smiled, enamored by the ambient sound.

The stroller started rolling and I grabbed the handle to stop it. The man and woman began speaking Hindi, I believe. They seemed worn out but somewhat jolly from the way the man held his kid’s hand and how they swaggered onto the train.

I appreciate families who own the space they move through: they’re not intentionally obnoxious; they aren’t loud. But they aren’t trying to compensate and be overly delicate, either.

They possess a certain grit which I’m sure you only know when you have kids. This family moved with an air that says, yes we’re a family, we may make noise, we’re doing our best, hope you get it.

The little boy walked towards that part of the train which connects two carts through a couple of doors that reminds me of a slinky swaying. I looked up from my book and noticed him on the move.

The father was looking the other way. The woman called the man’s name: once, twice, the kid’s hand was on the handle, about to head out from our cart.

I nearly jumped up instinctually; the dad and I passed a glance; he turned, slowly, as if challenging the kid to see what would happen. Where you goin’? The kid looked back and ran into his dad’s arms.

The moment felt tense, but I saw a slight smile in the man’s eyes when he looked at me which I took to mean, I know what I’m doing. They departed at a station on the outskirts of Osaka.

I like walking through Umeda, Osaka’s busiest station, on a Friday night. Sharply dressed men and women flock, either heading out for the night or coming home from work. Drunken groups stagger, jovial faces smile, commotion ensues.

Chatter. Movement. A sea of people. Another night.

I’m a fish in the current, moving, catching glances, my tie dangles; my eyes are tired, but the scene fills me with a curious energy. Sometimes I forget how to walk. Left right left…

Train to train, and I’m on the Tanimachi now. Fascinating little journey. I exit the station into a solid rain. Cold and fresh. It never occurred to me on this journey that it might be raining. I’ve traveled miles under roofs.

It’s coming down hard. What is rain? As we know it, it’s not really of the earth or of the sky; we know rain intimately in that in between place before our eyes, as the alleyways on my walk home are no longer clear — the space before me is now full of something, endlessly falling water.

I can reach out and touch this water; it soaks my dress shirt and tie and splashes on my shoes and wets my hair. It’s raining, the air is full, I pick up my pace.

But I also enjoy it. It’s rain, and the rain makes me stop and think and appreciate how strange this all is; we try to protect ourselves with clear plastic devices which unfold and we hold them above us to move through the liquid unharmed, a cocoon of safety to guide us through the element, observe it, go about our life as the atmosphere falls; but when you don’t expect it, like me — although I did actually check this morning and saw rain in the forecast but I thought it was for tomorrow — when you don’t expect it you’re a part of it, sometimes it’s a drizzle but sometimes it’s like now, and while I wanted to walk and appreciate it I was getting more and more wet, watching the puddles flutter and admiring the glow of the red lantern which hangs in front of the small, six person bar in my neighborhood. There are also some Christmas lights still hanging nearby.

I admired the lights and then looked the other way and the small white light of a bike shone in the distance. The biker held an umbrella above them as they rolled down the road unfurling. I smiled and continued and stopped here and there to observe the interplay of light and darkness, and when I got home, wet, I hung my dress shirt on the air conditioner and got an apple and laid down in bed and ate it while listening to the steady, cold rain.

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