(I Can See) Clearly Now, the Rain (is Gone)
The first time that Farah and I snuck away for a one-on-one conversation it was 1997, a particularly bad “smog day” in the San Bernardino valley, and Route 66 choked with traffic under the brown air. We ate Denny’s fare—her: coke, coffee and fries. I ordered an uninspired omelet. Mostly, we smoked and bemoaned the emotional incest of our small college, but this transaction left me feeling unaccountably charged, like we’d discovered a game-changing philosophical truth hidden in the clouds of Marlboro red. After, we climbed into her Corolla to do the lurching brake-gas-brake dance the three miles back to campus. When the song came on, she turned it up and smiled wide and we said, at the same time, “I love this song!”
The second time we snuck away—not long after—we chose a faux-French joint with soup du jour and outdoor tables and we wrote more than talked, sliding blue-inked pages of first draft poetry back and forth like playing cards. When the song came on the Corolla’s stock radio just one stoplight shy of campus, we didn’t say anything, just smiled as she cranked it up.
Two and a half years later, I was behind that Corolla in my second hand Pathfinder on Interstate 10, trying to keep up as she pushed the speedometer to triple digits, bound for the east coast and whatever came next in life. A boyfriend sat in her shotgun seat; some of her baggage sat in mine, but no matter—she stuck a skinny arm out the window and started flashing numbers at me. Hours later, in a Nevada truck stop, I learned it was a radio frequency she’d been trying to mime at me because the fucking song came on again—one last time.
After she died I’d play the song, staring through raw eyes right at winter sun, drinking vodka like breathing, over and over again, wanting to sneer (I couldn’t see anything clearly, the rain was, at best, on a half hour hiatus and the cheerful optimism was intended as ironic backdrop). But I just tricked myself into deeper sorrow.
When the manuscript that contained the decade of life that we’d shared finally became a refined thing, a story that others could read and feel instead of just containing what I couldn’t carry, an editor told me that the title had to change—that maybe it should come from that song.
Last Saturday my two-year-old was diligently stomping mud puddles in the colorful whirl of a farmer’s market. Nothing could dissuade him, not even wet socks, until he chose a pothole just in front of a man with a guitar and a prosthetic leg. My face burned as Pax eyed the robotic appendage emerging from his shorts, but the guy just cackled and jigged a little and started singing the A-B-C song and pretty soon Pax was shuffling with him and catching on. My wife heaved over with the produce-laden basket and was ready to split, but the man had just struck up one last song for Pax, who now looked up into his eyes and, I saw through my tears, rocked his little hips with the first bars.
A long bolt of blue sky on the western horizon opened under gray smear of clouds during our walk home.
(Clearly Now, the Rain: A Friendship is forthcoming from ECW Press in 2013)