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Italian Rain

—Jacqueline Goyette

Italian Rain

The rain is starting to come down hard this afternoon, while I am still at work, in that bright white classroom on the ground floor with the windows open. We name the rain as it falls: the students find the words for it in their textbooks (the chapter we've just completed on the weather) and repeat them like a chant. Drizzle. Downpour. Thunderstorms. As we say the word lightning, the sky behind me lights up, all the gray disappearing and swallowed up by a fountain of silver light. We stop, grow quiet. We look outside. One, two, three, thunder. One of the students stands up, hurries over to the window to close it.

This corner of Italy, where I have lived for the past twenty years of my life, gets so much rain in these first days of autumn that I should be used to it by now. It is a baptism of sorts, rain that pours down over beach umbrellas, over suntanned tourists, over medieval brick cities and their late summer festivals, over lights strung across sun drenched streets. A reminder that autumn is here. I am at the start of my 45th year and I say, whenever I drive these dusty roads all the way to work from Macerata to Loreto, that once I've lived here as long as I lived in America, it will start to feel real. Right now it's like a scorecard, and America is still winning, but just barely. Italy is catching up. At times, there is something in me that wants to pack up and leave forever. To run away entirely, leaving husband Antonello and Italian family behind; leaving this medieval jumble of towers in their rain-soaked state to book a ticket on the next flight out of Rome. But when I think about it, when I imagine myself back in Indianapolis and holed up in my childhood bedroom, I think: what would I even be looking for over there? Neither place is actually home, and yet they both are. When I wake up in the middle of the night from a dream about the house in Indianapolis — my bedroom there, the kitchen with the linoleum floors mom always hated — it takes me a moment: the breeze from the window, the sound of the fan as it whispers and whirrs in the dead of night, the feel of the kitten curled up at my feet, to realize which bed I'm in. To turn and reach for Antonello, sound asleep beside me.

At work I am the last to leave today. It is 4:30 pm and the rain keeps falling. It gets louder: the slap of it on the windows as it combines with the wind to scare me a little. I don't want to drive home in this, I think, but at the same time, I'm curious as I peek out the windows again, as I walk down the quiet hallway (dark like it always is) and see the rain that falls outside those glass doors. In the parking lot, where my car is the only one left, I watch entire sheets of water, hitting the ground in ribbons of rain. This parking lot is sometimes used as a helipad for days when helicopters land purposefully on this part of the city. Today there were no such aircraft, no sign of any life at all. The sky is so silver it has turned almost golden. So dark in parts that it feels like winter has descended upon us, on these days in mid-September.

It is hard to drive in this rain. It is like no rain I've ever driven through. I've run through rain like this: that 4th of July when I was living in Washington, after the fireworks were over. I remember laughing then, my summer skin still warm, the tickle of rainfall turning into a proper summer shower. And that time Dad and I ran in the half marathons during the years right after my mother died: doing them together to heal from all that we'd lost; the time we flew to Providence, Rhode Island (dad’s hometown) for a race. It rained as we ran down hills through Providence, and we kept our balance, tried not to slip and slide. It rained later too, as we drove through the city, as dad looked out at the window at his childhood home. It rained so much in those years that followed, so many storms all bubbling up. But I don't remember a drive like this. It frightens me as I drive it. I take a different route than normal, afraid of slip-sliding down the side roads meant for farm vehicles, or careening down the hill that leads from Loreto to the valley below. These hills are not made for rain storms. They are not ready for it: the fields are starting to flood, the puddles on the side of the road are the color of coffee as mud sinks into water and starts to spread and flow into potholes and along roadsides. In the years I've lived here, bridges have collapsed, rivers on the edge of the coastline have flooded and left cities there caked in knee-deep mud. New roads are constantly being built, old bridges restored from earthquakes and flooding and all the effects of time. These picture perfect fields and green rolling hills, the hill towns that crumble into villages: they hide all of the quiet dangers of thousands of years of living. Day and night, year after year. This is what a life will do.

I make it through the valley. I make it, as wind hits hard against the windshield, as rain falls in buckets, the rivers I drive past flowing fast. I take that final left turn in Sambucheto, the road that leads up to Macerata. The rain is slowing now. I round corners, I take each stretch of road as slowly as I can. When I finally see Macerata (its silhouette glowing golden in the distance), it is as if the whole city is on fire, with one single stream of silver smoke wafting from one side of the city to another, covering all the buildings in a fog. The roads are brown and muddy, and the sun is shining now, reflecting its soft light in these pools of standing water. What is this place? How has autumn come at us so fast? All that was left of summer yesterday is long gone now. The city is constantly being born.

But I picture the house I am going home to. No, it is not the red brick home with blue trim that I still dream of. The one with the garden out front that snakes around back -- bright pink zinnias and yellow black eyed Susans and squirrels that hide and then hop out, waiting for my dad to feed them almonds from his open palm. No, this is my house. Our house. The house we bought together,

Antonello and I. The fifth floor apartment that I fell in love with at first sight, the one that, after we first saw it, I asked to see again the very next day, to make sure I hadn't dreamt everything up. I went in and danced my way through every room, on the tile floors, peeking into the bedrooms and picking each one out. I called my mother that very day: we found a place! I can still hear her voice, even now. That house: it is the one I see. The windows that were probably left open this morning after Antonello and I left for work. The puddles in the kitchen on those same terra cotta tiles I danced across. The view from the balcony in my bedroom: the city in the distance -- a city I love. The same towers and balconies and the mountains that lie in wait not far behind. I picture Cardamom hiding under the guest bed, her tail flicking this way and that, her paws tucked in beneath her. Her quiet cries as her whiskers twitch, as her eyes grow wide, as the thunder rolls outside.

That is the direction I'm heading. Right now. I think I'll hurry, I say aloud. Drizzle. Downpour. Thunderstorms. Lightning. I whisper the words. Like a prayer I say them: hoping they will keep us safe. 

There is Macerata in the distance, down one more road. 

And here I am. Almost home.


JACQUELINE GOYETTE is an English teacher and a writer from Indianapolis, Indiana. Her work has been nominated for Best of the Net and has appeared in both print and online journals, including JMWW, Heimat Review, Eunoia Review, You Might Need To Hear This, and Cutbow Quarterly. She currently lives in the small town of Macerata, Italy with her husband Antonello and her cat Cardamom.

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