"No, you have to stay there now. He said he was coming to get you. Just hang on."
I put the phone down and sighed.
I could have been home by then if left to my own devices. That was how I normally did it – walked into town to catch the bus or got a lift from a friend's Mum or Dad. Not that I had a lot of friends. Not that I could ever offer a quid pro quo with regard to such lifts. He was so undependable for one thing, so irascible that it was embarrassing when he did meet my friends and the prospect of even asking... No. Just no.
The lecture I would have received, the trouble that would have potentially been caused. It was wrong to ask for anything for a number of reasons which he would doubtless elucidate at length. Really, it was wrong to ask because it would rile him and that was something one must never deliberately do. Nod, smile, keep your head down, be accommodating and live another day.
The last time he had gone to pick me up, I hadn't been told so had gone home by the usual means. That was a night when the sky might as well have turned black and spewed fire and brimstone upon our hapless heads. Although I knew rationally that it had not been my fault, it still felt like it was.
The building was being locked up and I had to go outside. The caretaker had already been very indulgent by letting me call home on the payphone, but now I had to leave and shelter under the doorway as the rain fell.
He would arrive eventually, angry at me because he was late, angry at me for not showing sufficient gratitude for his noble deed, angry at me for being wet. He was always angry, like some implacable thunder god and, with luck, I could ride that out. That appeared to be a fact of life.
The wind drove the rain right into me, drenching me thoroughly on one side, so I stepped out into the thick of it, the dense, cold, impersonal sheets of water, and twirled myself around, danced like a mad child. I was young. I was happy and healthy apart from the obvious. I could not have become any wetter and I needed something to celebrate before the worst happened, not just something else to flinch and hide from.
He would probably leave again. I could feel this brewing as his mood deteriorated, knew the signs all too well by now. I knew that once the inevitable explosion which precipitated these grand exits had passed, the dust settled down again, life would go on. The sun would come out.
Maybe he would stay away this time.
Some days, when it rains, it feels as though the sky is weeping, pouring out its grief, ire and woe upon the world. Some days it is cathartic and cleansing. Some days it is just a fact of the weather.
The part of me that is still a mad child longs to go out and dance in the downpour. I love the feeling of the water on my skin, the feeling that I am part of something, of everything, if I am nothing more than a speck under the heavens. I need to laugh off any idea that fun or industry has been rained off, postponed, and make some good of what is now.
I am convinced in my bones that my ancestors came out of the ocean. I was the toddler who could not be kept out of mud puddles, the sea, the beck. At least now as a technical grown up, it is up to me to keep the mud from the carpets and to mop up overspill from the floor. Sometimes the best part has been the happy certainty that once my fit has passed, I have somewhere warm to retreat to and get dry, to cosily shake myself off like a dog. This is my world now, where I bear the responsibilities, decide what is right and wrong for me.
Nowadays my situation precludes actual dancing, but I can open the window still, cast aside any prunes and prisms and take myself out to smell the wet earth and leaves, watch the ground soaking up the goodness and wait for the flowers to open again. When it is all over, I will stretch up on my hind legs to see if I can find the rainbow.
Sometimes it feels as though life itself has been a series of squalls, crises and meegrims interspersed with better times and that I am nothing more than fortune's fool. That being so, I can do worse than just be myself.