Rainy days are rainy days for the most part: wet, with the weather balancing between cold or humid or dry, depending on where you’re located.
But rainy days in New York City are far more than just a cloudy thing. The trains and buses are a little slower, often smellier and damper. The air is heavier. The people are faster, while also less present. It’s as if they’re on a different mode of go.
But despite all this, for writers, a rainy day in the Big Apple could bring about so much magic – like that of a dead skunk, umbrella vendor or better yet, the splashing sounds of your own footsteps.
It was raining sporadically Monday. It started late-afternoon, stopped somewhere as the sun was setting and then started up again as night settled in. It was a holiday for some. President’s Day. It was off, enjoying a three-day weekend and getting ready for the start of the week. I felt good. After battling what my doctor said was a bout of pneumonia for almost three weeks – and then nursing my kids back to health, who also caught whatever the hell I had – I needed my week to start off good. I ran to the supermarket before it got dark, when it wasn’t raining, to grab a few things. My son’s diapers and a lightbulb, because our bedroom lamp’s went out, were really my top shopping priority. As I got to the car, the smell of the dead, run-over skunk hit me hard. The carcass had been rotting along Broadway for over three days, but for some reason – with the rain hitting it now – the stench got more potent and denser. It wasn’t a dead smell, per se. But more like a simple, skunk smell. It was as if the little guy tried spraying off the car that did him in. I looked around frantically, making sure I hadn’t stepped on it on my way to the car. I couldn’t find the little pouch its fur had come to in recent days. “Where the hell?”
The rain had started so quickly. I got on the A-train at Dyckman, with only a few scattered clouds, but when I got to 59th Street, it was pounding down. I pulled out my little green, 6-inch umbrella. I hadn’t used it since the last rainfall almost a few weeks ago, but this time around, it got stuck. I struggled with the bottom spring, pressing it hard with my thumb to no avail. I pressed down hard one more time and pulled it outwards, forcing the fabric to spread over me. “You better open up,” I said.
My umbrella battle couldn’t have lasted more than a minute, but it was a minute too long for a street vendor who was standing nearby with a bucket of different-sized umbrellas.
“I got a better one for you,” he said. “I’ll give it to you for half the price – $5.”
I smiled, all the while still adjust the canopy top part.
“No thanks,” I replied, wondering when the hell did umbrellas become so expensive. Whatever happened to the 1-dollar, black with cheap metallic handle kinds? I got my cheap thing for almost $10 at the local, franchise pharmacy.
“You sure? That one looks like it’s about to give out,” he replied back. I noticed then he was missing some of his teeth. He was also a little soaked. I wondered then where did he get the bucket of umbrellas, if there was a warehouse somewhere I could tap for a few dozens of umbrellas for the year.
“I’m sure,” I said, now proudly showcasing my umbrella that almost gave out. But before I could finish, the umbrella guy was off to his next customer. There was urgency now in his selling.
“Ummbrellas. Stay dry for only 5,” he sang. I thought it was a special, I wondered.
The rain fell for an hour or two more, before lunchtime.
I walked a little harder with the rain, wanting to hear the splashing of the water against my rain boots. Stomp. Stomp. Stomp. My jeans were a little on high-waters side, so I wasn’t worried about getting them soaked. The sounds of my feet was almost mesmerizing. I forced myself to stomp out a rhythm as I went along 181st Street. My back was hunched over, focused and enthralled in the sounds my feet could make.
What is a rainy day like around where you live? Can you find the magic that pours down from the clouds?