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The rain and the H-bomb

The rain came and it made me happy. It started in the morning, steady and solid. It continued through the day and into the night. For the first time in many weeks, I felt at ease.

rainA pluviophile they call me, a person who loves rain, someone who finds joy and peace of mind during rainy days. Granted, I only spent a few minutes out in it yesterday. But the sound of the rain on the outside of the house, the gurgle of the downspouts, the sight of all that rain raised my spirits and put me in a mood to sit and wait for inspiration.

No poems came to me. I did not feel the impulse to sit down and write one of these essays. Instead, I fiddled around the living room. The warm light from the incandescent lamps and the small coziness of the room kept me safe and warm feeling all day long. My son watched television and played with his legos—he’s something of a lego freak—and I pottered around with books and my computer.

Lately, I’ve had a string of days where I feel like I can’t get anything started, and when I do get started, I can’t finish. Such is the life of a manic depressive who takes the proper medications. The drugs rob me of the times when I’m on top of the world, able to do anything and everything I set my mind to. Of course, as much as I miss the energy and frenetic action of the high points, I don’t suffer the lows, the bone-crushing depressions that make me want to hang myself from the beam in the basement.

The medicine, however, doesn’t take care of everything. Sometimes it seems that taking the medicine, while it gets rid of the very highs and very lows, also traps me in a kind of somnambulance. I still go through periods of depression. I get down, lethargic, and sometimes mean. I suffer from cyclical downturns that sometimes last only a day, sometimes for months. This time, the depression has lingered for a couple of months. I wake in the morning and try to go back to sleep. When I do get up, my thoughts are about when I can finagle a nap.

When depression bubbles up through the chemical compounds implanted against it, guilt and feelings of uselessness emerge with it. Since I can’t seem to make myself move, I feel the weight of things that I need to do but can’t. The basement needs a going over. There’s a hole in the floor of the playhouse out back. I haven’t finished painting the kitchen, a project now over five years old.

These thing lay on me like heavy, wet packing blankets. The feelings of uselessness grow. Here I am, 53, and suffering the paralysis of middle age—almost senior age—that writers like Updike, Cheever, and Malamud wrote about. Certainly, I say to myself, this can’t be happening to me. If I could just get started, get over the hump, I will be all right. Then, I feel the presence of despair. No, I can’t get started. All the things to be done will have to wait until I feel better, if that time ever comes.

Then, there’s my son. I leave him to play by himself. He needs me. He wants the father/son experience of completing a project, no matter how trivial, together. I neglect him and those feelings of guilt and uselessness gather like driftwood against a bridge pillar. The only thing that will dislodge the jam is a flood or dynamite, neither of which I have in me at the moment.

I started with that kind of day yesterday. Another one, I thought. All I want to do is sleep, get away from the light and noise, turn off the nattering voices in my head.

But it was raining and I could feel it. The light was dim, and all I had to do was leave the lamps in the room off to be in the twilight that a good, rainy day brings to the world. Calm washed over me, and the nervous ticks that plague me in times of stress abated. My hands quit shaking. My jaw unclenched. I was in a quiet world broken only by the sound of the rain and downspouts. I felt good despite being down in the depths.

I let my son play with his legos. I read some and pinballed around on the computer. I looked up the Soyuz space program and the Soviet space stations posed to look like civilian and scientific endeavors but were really Cold War surveillance missions. The rockets that propelled those stations into space were the same as those the Soviets tipped with thermonuclear bombs. While the United States and Soviet Union sent their astro- and cosmonauts into space as great human feats, those riders of stars operated like men in little outposts and determine how to rain devastation down from the heavens.

As the day progressed, I read more ephemera. The Bikini Islanders had no idea what their American handlers were saying as they explained what they were going to do to the Bikiniers’ island. When the H-bomb Bravo blew the atoll to smithereens, the islanders saw that the gods had really arrived. They wanted to go back home after the 20 H-bomb tests the United States conducted on the island. They had no idea about the dangers of radiation and no one knew how to tell them. Their trees did not distinguish between ordinary water and radioactive precipitation. They became radioactive beacons, the coconuts on them like little containers of the most deadly substances known to human kind.

If my reading tended to follow my mood, I didn’t see it until now. I watched H-bomb explosions on youtube. I saw the effects of war on Syrian refugees. I listened to American politician wax jingoistic in their xenophobic speeches. The American presidential primary candidates seemed like clowns who wanted to wreck the economy with more war and to make young men take up arms in the name of profit.

All the while it rained, and I felt a kind of joy that I rarely feel during these depressions. Nick played quietly and paid little attention to Mythbusters. The rain allowed me to sit, doing little of the work I have before me. I tried to feel bad about not getting busy. But the rain left me powerless against its soothing effect.

For the first time in many weeks, I was at peace. I wished for the rains that produced the flood. I could think of nothing more comforting than forty days and forty nights.

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