the storm & afterwards

If I can remember anything, it is the sidewalk burning, burgeoning darkness over the river. The hushed rush to shelter, subway, awning, underneath anything that can protect from the oncoming onslaught. A few hesitant spurts, is that the condensation from the air conditioning units falling to the earth? No. A light wind has its way with the dust and the flood comes faster than the thought to hide.

Umbrellas break too easily. It is ill luck to open them indoors.

And so I never carry one. I mock those who seek shelter. And so I am soaked through.

The rain is as hard and fast as it has ever been. In my short life, I remember only twice that it was as this, the ground a mirror of itself as the drops ricocheted upwards as they struck the pavement, bitter force. I did not shield myself then, either, and keep on walking into the storm.

Later, as I dry, my skin sticks to itself. The air is wet with the memory of the rain. For a moment, the urine, sweat, shit, rot, does not reek.

Later, the fireflies appear, as sudden as their momentary spark. I have not seen them in years. Perhaps I was not looking hard enough, or perhaps looking too hard. I remember holding them in my hands when I was young, how the green-glow shone on my skin. Clean red mud, fine gravel, puddles and roughly cut grass. They sprayed pesticides here a few weeks back, and the patches between the cobblestones are withered and black. But the fireflies still dance, as silent as the city dares.

In the cool, grey dusk, the fallen branches, severed limbs, quietly lay still. The wind ruffles them a little, an inquisitive hound marks it as his. The trees closest to the river are not so strong as to have withstood the wind. Whole tops of trees are toppled, heights denied by the storm. The fireflies illuminate the destruction, soft glow gone as quickly as it came.

We see him most mornings. He lives in his car, wears the same faded black wind pants, spends his time boxing the air, invisible enemies, squatting, lifting tires jerry-rigged to a tire iron.

The morning after the storm, he fights the fallen trees.

I wonder where the fireflies sleep.

© 2016 Anna-Christina Betekhtin, All Rights Reserved.

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