The First Rain

The first rain of the season sweeps across the world. The leaves rustle on the trees, the air thickens, the sky changes ccolor. The bright blue fades to a deep steel grey at the horizon, and you know that the rains are on their way. The rainy season approaches.

Thunder shakes the top of my hut as the wind speeds up outside. It surrounds me, the noise digging deep into my bones; I shake with surprise at the sound and creep outside to look in the direction it came from. Above me the sky is still blue, beautiful, sunny, but to the south the darkness looms, frightens all in reach: the storm is coming fast.

And as the wind speeds up, the air cools down, the clouds run across the sky and all of a sudden it is covered. Drops come down, one after another, slowly slowly slowly then all of a sudden fast. Big drops widely spaces, ones fat with the moisture they have been saving up all dry season, saving for this chance. And the wind speeds up again, shakes the roof of my hut, spins the straw above me. Pieces come down around me as the wind and rain knock against the outside and rustle pieces of the thatch and dust down from the roof and onto my floor and the rain keeps beating on.

I crawl into my bed, I curl up against the corner of the wall. The thunder beats on outside, the drumming so loud it seems like it is next to me: I forget how intense these storms can be. I forgot how scary they can seem. I put on music, I read my book, I go outside to look at the rain. The world is quiet again, no talking or shouting, no kids running wild. Just the sounds of the storm deafening out everything else in the world.

There is nothing left but the storm. The sounds of the storm, the slap of the rain, the rush of the wind, the crash of the thunder around me. It is hypnotic in its own way, the way the world changes with just the coming of the storm. It is calming, too, in its own intense way. I can think of the rain and the rain only. I curl a little deeper against the corner, waiting, wondering if it will last, if this feeling will stay for a little while longer.

And as soon as it came, it is gone again. A few hours later and I am stepping into the now cooled air. The heat has been chased away, the sand on the ground has been packed back down, the land looks a little more alive.

The rain comes with one other rain a day later, and then nothing. It is early in the season still: the rainy season isn’t supposed to start until the end of October, so this is just a teaser. An indicator of what is to come. It’s not surprising for the rain to start so early up here; it is simply disappointing when it leaves again.

In the following days the area starts to turn green again. The trees look alive, the grass starts to return. The burnt fields feel the rain and start to regrow, green stalks popping up overnight, ferns unfolding in my yard. The world is still brown, but not so much as before.

And in another day the world is hot again, dry again; the hot season has returned, has reclaimed its turf. The nights are getting cooler again, but the rain doesn’t return. It will, though. It will in its own time, when it is ready.

On Cruisers and Time

The hours stretch by. Expand then contract again, bouncing in and out of time, out to forever then back again. Time stops being real, it moves at its own pace. It gets lazy then catches up with itself. The heat holds it down, presses it against itself. The hot tarmac radiates up and out and keeps stretching out, behind, back where we came from.

A year ago I was in this same cruiser, driving the opposite way. Driving the eleven hours from Lusaka to Solwezi. We were restless. We put in music. We checked the time. We tried to read, talk, play a game. We looked at our watches once more. We didn’t know that the time will go as it pleases, that this road won’t rush itself by until it wants to. We occupied ourselves, we counted the hours till arrival.

A year later we have learned better. We get in the car in the morning, we curl up against the bags lining the seats. We put in music. We fall asleep. We wake up and watch the road slink by. We watch it unfurl, a never ending river of black and grey and dirt. We push the piles of stuff down around us. The packs and purses and pineapples. We nestle into the holes, rest against the soft parts, punch away the hard. We push our knees against the door, press our toes into the glass window, fall a bit deeper into the nest we’ve made. We change the music, look up, nestle down, keep watching the road beyond. We read billboards and look at the trees. We don’t ask it to go faster than it wants. We let it take its time.

Our watches go faster now. Wake up, another city. Fall asleep, the smooth tarmac gives way to potholes. Another place, another province, another few hours tick themselves off quietly, no fuss, no acknowledgement.

We are more patient now. We know the ride will go as it pleases. We know the places now, we know the landmarks to look for. We don’t need to check the time because we know that the time will not make a difference, that the clocks are arbitrary will never change as we want. So we stop wanting. We let them move at their own pace, molasses speeding up after its initial slow decent, then pulling back into itself. Chovu chovu. Slowly slowly.

And soon we will be in Lusaka, where the time makes sense again. Where the roads will stop and give way to traffic. Where watches start up once more, we get out, stretch our legs, wonder at the day flown by. Wonder at the time snapping back to the finite. Wonder at how much more patient we have become, how much easier these rides get with time. Wonder at how months have gone by, a year has gone by, too quickly to imagine fully. Too quickly to comprehend now, so for now we will ignore that spectacle in time, leave it for another day.