Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Like Rain on Spring Leaves

My name is Charlie.

Charlie Martin.

It’s raining.

It’s April. The 3rd of April.

That much I know, but I don’t know why I’m here or what I was thinking just a few minutes ago.

I can’t even recall how I got here. Just moments ago, I found myself sitting in this cemetery on a cold stone bench flanked by two small shrubs. This dreary rain has soaked everything in sight and driven away anyone who might have reasons to be here. Anyone except me, I guess, and I’ve apparently forgotten my own reasons.

I don’t remember when the rain began, either, but I’ve been watching it patter against the fresh green leaves of the bush to my left. Perhaps watching isn’t what I mean, because today I am actually seeing the rain. The water pools clean and clear on a leaf, rushes away in a miniature stream, cascades over the paper-thin edge, and then disappears-lost among all the less ambitious drops.

It should disturb me, I suppose, that my memory has abandoned me in the here and now. Yet, somehow, it doesn’t. The grey blanket of the sky is comforting in its peculiar way. Spring ought to be a bright and cheerful reawakening of life-but without the rain, there would be no hope of rebirth. So, in its dour manner, the rain gives affirmation that life goes on. Thinking of it in those terms dissipates some of the gloominess.

My hair is soaked, plastered coolly to my scalp, and I realize rainwater has trickled down past the neckline of my overcoat. The back of my shirt now clings wetly to my body and a tiny rivulet tickles me occasionally as it scurries to find a new path to the small of my back. The seat of my trousers is probably just as wet, but the cold stone I am sitting on has sufficiently numbed that part of my anatomy. Numbed to the point that I can no longer tell. I glance around and find that I have either misplaced or entirely forgotten my umbrella. Well, not that having it would do much good at this point.

Listening intently, I hear the tap-tap tap of rainfall on the leaves, a syncopated rhythm to entice all living things to join in the dance of spring renewed. Oddly, those drops hurling themselves headlong onto the thin fabric of my black overcoat call less audible attention to themselves. I strain to capture other sounds, but my ears have attuned themselves to the rain and it is all that my mind will register.

The lower half of my trousers, unprotected by my overcoat, are soaked through. My socks, too, are becoming drenched. Droplets still bead on the coal-black sheen of my shoes, but inside them I feel the dampness working its way toward my toes.

I wonder, since I can’t seem to remember, how long I’ve been here on this bench. Long enough to get wet. Yes, I realize, that isn’t much help. Wet is wet is wet. Once you get that way, it’s all the same. It isn’t that important, after all, but it would be nice to know. It would be more comforting to have a few simple points of reference.

I watch as a pale silver-blue Ford creeps down the lane and rolls sedately to a halt. I am thankful that the smell of car exhaust is far-removed. The rain has washed away much of the stench of industry. The smell of new verdant growth and youthful, sweet blossoms fills the air.

The car is parked not far from here. Headstones, in neat rows, stand in the lush, healthy grass separating my bench from the car. I watch as a woman emerges and opens her umbrella. Beneath her unbuttoned raincoat I can see she’s wearing blue. I’ve always liked blue.

Her heels make it difficult to walk on the softening lawn of the cemetery, but she manages. As the woman nears, recognition washes over my senses. Mary Beth!

But why would she come here? How could she know she would find me here?

Then suddenly, the presence of Mary Beth reminds me why I came to this place. And that this is not a bench at all. Like rain on spring leaves, her tears fall and become lost among the less heartfelt droplets. She bends down and places a simple bouquet on the polished grey stone.

“You know, Charlie,” she whispers, “it always hurts more when it rains on the third of April.”

©2000 James K Bowers


  1. Okay, one more try:

    I like this story, especially the tactile sensations he is feeling. It's clear what is going on from the beginning, but it works well. The sadness is profound. Makes me feel guilty about never visiting grave sites. I wanted the recognition of Mary Beth to be a little more drawn out, gradual, heart wrenching... but no big problem with how you did it.

    Well done!

  2. Thanks for the comments, Chris (and for the patience it took to finally get something posted!)


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