Thursday, April 06, 2006

Rainy Day

Rainy Day
A true story by Tan Yee Wei

"Wei, wake up!" an urgent voice swirled around me.
"We need to take in the laundry, it’s raining!" the voice continued.

I woke up with a start. David was imploring me to hurry up before the clothes get drenched. I glanced at the window. Indeed, there were several elongated streaks of rainwater on the glass pane while more were being added every moment.

With effort, I temporarily banished all slothful inclinations and got up. The mind was eager to rescue the clothes, but the body was not ready. I lumbered towards the door; David had opened it and was already running towards the stairs, laundry bucket in hand. His brisk footsteps faded into the distance.

The overcast sky’s diffuse light blinded me. I stumbled to a stop, blinked and rubbed my eyes while waiting for my pupils to contract. Gritty bits of dried discharge rubbed off from my eyelashes onto my fingers, which I brushed away.

Some moments passed while my eyes adjusted to the light, and I stepped out of the doorway as quickly as my hesitant steps would allow. The cold, damp wind surprised me in my cotton t-shirt. I made my way to the stairs, my slippers sliding and slapping on the concrete walkway from my still-infirm steps.

Even as I walked, the rain intensified. The falling droplets, which had appeared sparse in the air just seconds ago, were starting to crowd out the sky. The wind was still bitingly cold.

I climbed the steps to the roof, my left hand grasping the railings to help haul my body upwards. Every muscle was not to be wasted; each additional second brings more rain water to our clothes. My injection-moulded plastic slippers pattered annoyingly on the concrete.

Rainwater splattered on the outer edges of the stairs; I kept to the inside of the zigzagging stairs. From a great height, silvery strands of falling rain drops slanted by the wind pierced earthward. I recalled a novel I read yesterday…

"From the garden, I could hear the rain beating on the leaves and into the clay, and I pictured it, falling straight and shiny as wires through the windless dawn."

With a tinge of regret, I noted that my rain fell diagonally.

I arrived at the top of the stairs. David was holding an armful of t-shirts, plastic hangars still in them. He rushed towards a shaded area, shoved the clothes into the bucket, and went back into the rain to collect the rest.

I headed out into the rain, ducking my head to avoid running into the braided steel cables that serve as laundry lines. With the t-shirts removed earlier, all that remained were briefs and socks. Undoing the clothes pegs before taking each garment down, I reflected on how I had fastidiously pegged every piece of clothing the day before. Now I had to unpeg each and every piece, as quickly as possible while being drizzled with cold rainwater and breathed on by the chilly breeze.

We stuffed the remaining articles of clothing into the laundry bucket, and hauled it back downstairs. Hurriedly, we pattered back to the flat, with less urgency as before but still eager to be out of the cold.

The season of tolerable climate is behind us, and this drab, cold weather hangs like a stubborn pall over the landscape. How quickly the seasons snapped around, from the 30 degree heat a fortnight ago to this 15 degree misery today.

Author's notes:

The quote was from John Banville's novel 'Shroud', Pan McMillan, 2002, London.
Click here for my entry.
David is my cousin.