Updated: Oct 23, 2022
'I always like walking in the rain, so no one can see me crying.' ― Charles Chaplin
The storm had passed, and the eucalyptus forest at the rear of the old ironbark machinery shed was momentarily bathed in an amber glow from the setting sun as it broke through the remnants of the thunderhead.
Joshua was soaking wet after being caught in the downpour, and his boots squelched in the creamy red mud as he walked up to the rusty wrought iron gate of the squat timber homestead that he had lived in with his wife Lizzy - until she'd moved into town to stay with her mother after they separated.
He wrapped his fingers around the lacework and applied enough upward pressure on the gate to silence its signature squeak as he swung it open. He paused and looked past the puddles on the crazy pavers towards the ornate wrap-around verandah that took refuge under the red tin roof of the house. As the overflow receded from the gutter, engorged droplets dripped from the elbow bend of the downpipe and slapped onto the soft ground beside the red bougainvillea.
He approached the house and almost tripped over a sodden pair of women's riding boots and socks lying askew on the garden path.
He glanced up. The front door was wide open.
Lizzy! he thought.
He walked up the front steps.
Scattered across the verandah was a wet pair of jeans, a soggy black tee shirt and underwear.
Slowly, he stepped through the open door. In the twilight, he could just make out the silhouette of a woman standing in the darkened front room.
‘Lizzy. Why are you here?’
‘You know me, Josh, I may get tired of walking in the teeth of a gale so nobody can hear me scream, walking in the moonlight to keep my shadow company and walking in the dead of night, so no one knows I’m there, but I always like walking in the rain.’
‘Why? So no one can see you crying?’
‘No, because I realised that if I became truly saturated, the moment would come when it was time to strip off all the legacies of my life and dry out.’
‘And have you dried out, Lizzy?’
‘I’ve been sober for six months. I promise.’
Lightning snapped across the sky, illuminating Lizzy’s naked body for an instant before plunging the room back into darkness. Thunder cracked overhead and dissipated into a low rumble as raindrops once again began to pelt against the tin roof. Joshua felt Lizzy’s hands undoing the buttons on his wet shirt.
‘Come now,’ she said. ‘It’s a beautiful night for a walk.’
I always like walking in the rain, so no one can see me crying.
It wasn’t pouring, as such. A light drizzle had settled and Maury looked out the newsagent shop door from where he stood behind the counter. Passersby on Lawrence Avenue ran to take cover under the balustrades. Inside his shop, Maury had a feeling sales would be good that day.
The umbrella sales would be, at least. He benefitted from the absent mindedness of strangers who wouldn’t have paid any mind to the cloudy, grey sky in the morning. And now there they were, racing away from the drops.
Suddenly, the door to Maury’s shop swung open and the bell rang. He was excited to sell his first umbrella of the day and, to be prepared, held one in his hand in case the customer asked.
A woman in a red hat entered and said, ‘Wow, it started all of a sudden.’ Her frizzy hair was poking out from under the hat and bits were wet. When she swung her head around, some of the raindrops fell onto the floor.
I'll have to clean that up immediately, he thought, and shifted his weight from one leg to the other impatiently. She looked around the newsagent and stopped in front of the magazine stand, flicking through a few. She wore big, heavy black boots yet Maury could barely hear her steps as she wandered around the shop.
‘Excuse me, sir? Just this, thank you.’ She was now standing in front of Maury and placed a bag of raspberry gummies on the counter. She shoved her hands in her pocket and the noise of coins rattling was all Maury could hear over the sound of the rain. He scanned the gummies with the machine and she handed him a few 50 cent coins.
‘Isn’t it beautiful?’ the woman asked, opening the bag as soon as she paid for it, and popping a red gummy in her mouth.
‘What is?’ Maury asked.
‘I don’t particularly think so.’
‘It makes everything so … romantic.’ She was looking out through the glass door.
‘Customers buy umbrellas, I guess that’s good,’ he replied.
The woman turned back to him and said, ‘If the rain is good business for you, surely that makes you happy.’
‘I guess ma’am.’ Maury could see the woman’s face was damp, but the rim of her red hat made it difficult to see whether this was due to tears. He was uncomfortable and didn’t know what to say.
‘Ma’am, are you …?’ He couldn’t bring himself to ask.
‘I’m quite alright,’ she assured him.
‘How can you be crying and be alright?’ he asked, indignant. Women really were a mystery. She turned her back to him, making her way towards the door.
For a brief moment he forgot he was still holding the umbrella in one hand and called out, ‘Ma’am! You’ll ruin that hat of yours!’ Then he waved the umbrella in the air.
‘Better without!' she called back. 'If I’m walking in the rain without an umbrella, no one will ask me if I’m alright!’ She gave him a wave on her way out the door.
'In the creation of comedy, it is paradoxical that tragedy stimulates the spirit of ridicule; because ridicule, I suppose, is an attitude of defiance: we must laugh in the face of our helplessness against the forces of nature - or go insane' — Charlie Chaplin.
Source: My Autobiography Charles Chaplin, Simon & Schuster NY 1964; https://quotepark.com/works/my-autobiography-5372/
Copyright: texts to the authors cited above; photos mfsprout & Wix.