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When there's no one else to do it, and I "do the buildings" at work, it means I leave the post office at 3:45 p.m., grab the few pieces of mail in a small drop and put them in a nearby blue bin, then walk a block and a half to the JFK federal building; I collect and sort mail there for 10-15 minutes, then head to the O'Neill federal building at about 4:10, get to the mailroom at 4:25 or so, and collect and sort mail there for half an hour, then bring that mail down the hall to the dock; the truck that picks up that mail then drives me back to the JFK building, where I collect and sort anything that's come in since I left, bring everything to the dock for the driver, and go back to the post office to finish out my day.

Yesterday, as I left the JFK building, it was starting to rain. I knew there was a storm headed this way, but now how strong, how long, or how likely it was to hit squarely. It was clearly going to rain harder than the light rain that was coming down at the time. But I had a schedule to keep, and there's no slack in the schedule. So I headed out. It started coming down hard within a minute.

By the time I got to the underpass under the big parking garage, where people were taking shelter, the wind was strong enough they were getting wet even under there. And I was already as wet as I could get, really; the rain sluicing off my raincoat plus the rain in general had pretty much soaked my shoes — light hiking boots, really — and the lower half of my shorts. I kept walking.

When I crossed Merrimac Street, there was three inches of running water at the curb. But my shoes were already soaked. There was two inches of water running down even the middle of the street. Four or five inches at the curb on the other side. Two inches standing water on the sidewalk. And then the hail started.

Small at first, then half an inch, then an inch, then larger. I got pelted by a few pieces, but it didn't hurt as much as I expected, more like a marble being flicked at you than a golf ball. The way large hail forms, if I understand right, is that smaller hail forms in the cloud, starts to fall, gets pulled back in an updraft to the top of the cloud, and falls again with more ice forming on it, and with the smaller pieces sometimes clumping together. Some of the larger pieces that came to rest on the sidewalk looked like stylized daisies, with a center piece and then smaller petals all around that center.

You couldn't see a block down the street because the rain was so thick, with the wind whipping the water white and blowing it horizontally. No one was out: no cars, no pedestrians. I was out. I was not normal, not waiting it out, insane, sloshing down the street. And I was where I was supposed to be. I was on my way to where I needed to be, and I was going to get there. And for the first time in months, I was at peace. I was walking, but I was at rest; my mind was at rest. I was where I was supposed to be, doing what I was supposed to do, not because I had to but because it was what I wanted to do.

I tried to understand it, that prickle at the corner of my mind, why it felt so calmly good. Not just the aloneness, not just the quiet that you only find in the midst of a rushing storm or the ocean or a waterfall. The best I can explain is: if I was supposed to be there, then… then there existed a place where I was supposed to be. A place I belonged.

The place is gone. It only lasted 10 minutes, a soap bubble containing a small sphere of a different universe, and when it touched me, instead of popping, it wrapped around me, let me pass through its skin and walk in that world for a few minutes, and then wafted on its silently loud way out to sea. But for 10 minutes, there was a place where I belonged, and I was in it. I don't know how to believe it will happen again; I don't have the ability to have that faith. But at the same time, as I fail to believe, I also fail to believe that it's impossible. That's the closest I've come to hope — to active hope — in a long time.

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Violet Wilson

October 2016


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