Rain and a girl.
It is raining.
The clock ticks monotonously, and I tap my feet to the rhythm of the clock’s heartbeat. I am impatient, and I don’t wonder why. Sitting in hospital waiting rooms never were a hobby of mine, a chore made particularly tedious by the fact that it is first rain after a long drought outside and I am anxious to get out and feel the wetness on my skin.
My father frowns at me from across the room, but he is a far more patient person than I. He finds it relaxing to wait. Perhaps it is because he is a war vet-he has seen far too much to be dissatisfied at the tedium of waiting. When you have lived with years of movement and bad decisions, waiting seems a relief.
Personally I find waiting ridiculous, which is why I always make it an effort to be doing two or three things at once. But then again, that’s just me. Things change, people leave and life doesn’t stop for anybody. Why bother wasting time when you could be doing so much more?
I stare out the glass wall, feeling anxiety and impatience curl up into a tangled knot in the pits of my stomach. I am torn by conflicting emotions: I want to wait, so that I can be first to know, and yet I want to go outside and feel the rain.
We have been in this room for a total of two hours and counting. A stack of magazines sit next to me-I have gone through them so many times I can tell you what is in which magazine. They’re all the same, really: either the latest mindless fashion trends decided on by zombies who cater for the masses, or useless information about celebrities who have done absolutely nothing to gain their fame.
I’d rather slit my own throat than be considered a corporate zombie.
My mother is still inside with the doctor, and waiting for her has become both tiring and exhilarating. The wait began two years ago, when her regular mammograph revealed a tumor in her breast. A year later, she had surgery performed to remove the tumor. Following checkups showed remarkable progress. Our mistake then was letting ourselves hope. See, this is the way the world works. The moment you let yourself hope, something happens and everything turns out to be a flimsy illusion, capable of collapsing at any moment.
A checkup two months ago showed the cancer had metasized to her lungs. By then every possible treatment had been performed on her-chemotherapy, surgery, radiotherapy. Mother had an 8% chance of living. Today, she is in the hospital for her last blast of chemotherapy. Mother has put her foot down: she no longer wants to suffer. She is tired of fighting, and she wants to die.
A door opens and shuts-a story of its own. Doctor Gregory emerges, his pale blue eyes suspiciously clear. Mother is behind him, already dressed in her plain jeans and shirt and holding on to the crook of his arm. Father leaps up and rushes over to her. Mother takes his arm carefully, and I am suddenly reminded of a father giving away his daughter for the first time.
“Thank you,” Father says to him, his voice wobbling ever so slightly, and together they leave the room, hand in hand. There is no ceremonious speech or dramatic goodbyes, but instead a cool courtesy that reminds all of us that another person is about to leave this world and enter the next. I hesitate and linger by the door, wanting to thank the doctor more but at a loss for words. He shakes his head at me, his eyes clouding over, and I remember that he is a part of this story too. I pause before waving at him, a half-hearted gesture not really indicative of the rising tide of emotions within me. After that, I walk out the door too, just like so many others have done before me.
Maybe after all this is over, I’ll return and thank him properly.
Mother is waiting at the hospital entrance. The rain has stopped. Instead, the sun has reappeared and is shining so hot I can see the heat rising from the ground. Father is gone-presumably to go get the car. Mother waves me over, and obediently, I come. She puts her arms around me, buries her face in my hair, and whispers into my ear: “I’m sorry I have to leave.”
I step back and stare at her, horrified. It is the first time any of us have ever actually acknowledged to me that she is going to die. Everybody, including Father and my elder brother, Jesse, seem to think they can hide the truth from me, when in reality I know more about death than any of them could possibly fathom.
Mother holds on to my wrists, and look at me with a serenity makes me wish she could stay forever, if only to protect me from the monsters within. “I’m sorry I can’t be there for you all the time,” she breathes, “and I want to save you, truly, I do.”
I look at the concrete floor, at the shimmer of heat rising from it, and whisper, “I don’t need to be saved.”
She smiles at me sadly, and turns my hand over. There, glinting pale pink and white in the sunlight, are the scars of a weaker me. “Yes,” she replies. “You do. And someday, someone will save you. I promise.”
I stare at her, sudden tears springing to my eyes, and I wrench my wrist away. I am mortified she somehow knows of this secret, and turning my back on her, I do what I always do: I run.
Ask anybody who has successfully completed middle school, and they can tell you that water has a never-ending cycle. Rain falls from the sky, runs to the ocean, and evaporates back only to repeat the same cycle. And there you have it, the never-ending circle of life. Sadness is a wheel, and love is its axis. Life is a gift, love is a privilege and everything else are mere distractions. And as I run, I remind myself that someday, this pain will be useful.
It begins to rain again, the clouds taking over the sky and blotting out the once-bright sun. I continue running, watching as droplets of water plunge to their suicide on the concrete pavement. And yet I remember, eventually, they will make their way up to the sky again. The smell of rain is refreshing, and it seems to diffuse through my skin and into my heart.
Petrichor is the smell of first rain, and to me, it is the smell of life.