My mother tells me that my emotions are fast and fleeting, altering the constants of calm and content that she understands to be me. I slam doors and I cry, I harm with intention, and I fragment myself to stay intact.  

In South Carolina, the South, my home, humid summer days meander endlessly on, and thunderstorms fragment time. Tablespoon raindrops wash away all memories of the day’s existence before the rain, and a cool calm settles as the storm passes.  

I’ve been in the Pacific Northwest for going on two years now, and I no longer understand the rain. Cold and constant, gusty and gray, the droplets settle without soothing. The day is the rain—there is no separating the two.

Before a Southern summer storm, heat wells and ruminates. Time slows. Small chores ask for more energy than the listless body can induce, as if the sultry air has become impermeable, a veil that must remain in place. There is nothing but the thick air, the searing hood of the car, the once-iced and now lukewarm water that hints of renewal.  

In Washington, I pull apart a small section of the blinds to see if I can know the rain. No colors to distinguish wet from dry, no curtain of water beyond the blinds, no passerby with garments that distinguish between rain and the lack thereof. The day is gray. I look to the puddles on the ground to see if there are little splashes. I look to the young woman with the jacket to see if her hood is up. I look to know what I cannot understand, a rain that slips smoothly into a day with no notice.  

A dark cloud that cannot be ignored passes over my face, friends tell me, when sadness or anger roll in. Those closest to me understand that they must leave, must give room for my brimming heart to overflow. During these moments, when I lose control of my tears, my fists, my direction, I wonder who I am, waiting for the storm to pass.  

In the South, storms waken me in the night. Claps of thunder, so loud that I no longer know the silence, shake me to the core and I question all that I had ever believed of fear. I sink into the pillow and take comfort in the wind and raindropped windows, glad to be awake and witness to nature’s overflowing heart. The morning will be calm and cool, fresh and alive. This is what I know.  

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Since writing this piece, Cumi Ikeda has moved from the Pacific Northwest to Pittsburgh, where she feels a bit more at home with the rain. There, she teaches nonfiction and wonders about poetry.