...tell me a story about rains, again. I remember the first time, sitting in the dark, looking out the window at the rain coming down, watching the cars pass through the damp sinuous streets. I had just repeated the old cliché about Eskimos, and you turned towards me and smiled gently, before a litany of words poured from your mouth like a sudden cloudburst ...downpour, storm, mizzle, light precipitation, hurricane, deluge,shower, typhoon, scud, drizzle washout, cats and dogs..words washing over me like the rains from heaven, like a baptism washing away my sins.

So tell me a story about rains, all those stories unfurling with the curling of leaves as the water drips from them after the storm has passed. Sitting in the rain at night, that time, out on the porch reaching out with our hands to catch raindrops you turned to me with that smile on your lips again and said I love it when it rains at night. Do you remember how you told me that rain is best when warm and how when you were a child you would always run outside on evenings like this with your tongue stuck right out to catch the drops, and our lips brushed together as a single drop fell between them and you said I was tasty like a raindrop.

Tell me a story about rains, just one more time, and wash me clean, because I'm sitting in the rain, in a place where it rains too much and it can't rain all the time can it?

Talking online, and we hadn't seen each other in months at least. It was decided that our separation must end so we would go off together into the rain. After driving through puddles and splashing innocent pedestrians, Jen thought of an idea. From the inside of her jacket she produced a Frisbee. At her suggestion, I drove to a gas station on the road leading out of town. Once we got there we went inside and greeted the lonely Indian fellow working the late night shift. Apparently, in her travels through the town in the morning hours when everyone else is asleep she had befriended this man and would spend time keeping him company until the morning came. This night, I was their guest.

Outside the bulletproof glass, the streets were flooding in the midst of a large thunderstorm, complete with ground striking lightning and the occasional dramatic burst of wind. The roads were empty so there was little danger of interruption. We stood amongst the gas pumps in a triangular formation and tossed the Frisbee-diving on the concrete to retrieve missed throws, stomping and splashing in the lake formed by the overflowing manholes. In time, we got daring enough to run blindly into the street, and the game spread across the four-lane road. When cars pulled in to get gas we had to stop and receive odd looks from drivers wondering what form of madness had urged us into the surrounding maelstrom. Several ill-timed throws nearly broke windows on these machines, but overall we managed to avoid any trouble.

2am- thoroughly soaked and shivering we returned to the inside of the auto-shop convenience store. Another friend of the gas attendant showed up and we all sat around eating free junk food and taking turns drying up with towels and blasts from the small portable heater behind the counter. We talked about psychotherapy-the attendant's friend was a doctor-and he regaled us with stories of his more interesting patients. Eventually, Jen and I began to feel the runny nosed fatigue of our nighttime adventures and go home. 5am I return home and get sick for the remainder of the weekend. I haven't seen her since.

By the moss-grown wall she stands, near the entrance to the station, calling to the milling people with her flute, calling them to a world where pastures grew in place of bus shelters, and where the roads were made by sheep and shepherds.

Most heard her, few heeded her, perhaps a few thought she was mad: for she had no busking cap at her feet, and though the day was grey and spotted with rain, she had a summer dress on, with floral ribbons and a wine-dark velvet belt.

Fifteen, I guessed her, or an older music student elfinly young for her years. I was one of the few who stopped to listen, unobtrusively: she did not seem to be inviting an audience, just leaning against a wall playing music for her own meditations. As to what it was she drew out from her oaten reed, I could not imagine. Not the vigorous and familiar showpieces of Vivaldi and Bach, but more pastoral, simpler.

She met my eyes once, briefly, and I turned away. The bus I had been pretending to wait for came, disgorged, filled, and followed the bus I really had been waiting for, into a wet and unappealing town. Still I stood. Still she played. Occasionally she rested, for a very short time, then began again with a series of low trills, as if testing it. I pictured her enticing birds to commune.

Again she meets my eyes and this time smiles with a question, a sad question, perhaps asking why I am the only one who seems to hear her truly.

Someone photographs her. She and I notice at the same time: a whirr, a snap, an intrusion of the mechanical into the unearthly. She reacts with the same ill-concealed scorn that I feel, that someone should try to capture her image without her music.

Unearthly I think, then I correct myself: earthly, above all, earthly music from an earth more fundamental and lasting than the asphalt laid upon it. She taps the voice of the deep earth.

I have to choose whether to catch the bus arriving now, and be free of the thickening rain, or expose myself as an auditor enchanted and helpless. If I stayed, what could I say to her? How could I ask her to play more and deeper on her flute, release more of the earth's hidden word-hoard, tell me stories about rains while the passing crowd ignores us?

The roar of the bus drowns her sound for a little, and its bright red sweeps her delicate colours from my sight. The fluting fades. I hesitate.

Turning round, I choose. But she is not there.

She was a dancer with dancer's ankles,
riding a bike through the sand blowing through the gaps in
the stacks of ceramic roofing tiles at the construction site
on her way out to the state road for groceries.

Her cotton dress whipped from her shoulders,
and she glowed in the sun like a lighthouse beacon
as she worked the pedals, gaining speed
before cresting the disused railroad embankment.

She existed for me nineteen seconds at a time, like artwork,
between one ridgeline and the next, every day for a year,
returning with milk and bread tied into her baby carrier
with frayed elastic cords and extra plastic bags.

I thought about petitioning the town for a traffic light,
but I liked those pieces of minutes I took from her
and decided I would be the worst kind of thief,
robbing her of her rhythm with luminous, metrical precision.

Nineteen seconds a day is just under two hours a year,
two hours of being warned by her of rocks that lurk,
shark-like and hungry, just beneath my surface.
She regulated me like nitroglycerin.

I compromised with myself, and with her, in the end -
at night, I prayed for rain.

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