The Women Who Come Out Before the Rain
by Virginia Marshall
It isn’t as if they can smell it or feel it in their bones. They simply look out the window to see if the sidewalk is darkening with tiny raindrops. If it is, they wrap their hair in scarves, step into their slippers, and emerge from their basement apartments with bags of trash to put on the curb before the real rain comes. If the drops do not turn into anything steady, they will linger on the sidewalk, hands on the smalls of their backs, busty fronts thrust upward. They will stare at the plastic flowers wrapped around their neighbors’ white-washed railings or scuff their flimsy slippers on the cement sidewalk.
I have seen the women come out before the rain. I bike down their block on my way home from work because I like to see their houses, bricked and boxy, attached neatly to one another as if clinging on to something special. Each house has at least two or three lawn ornaments out front. One house has stuffed animals zip-tied to the awning above the door; one yard is decorated with optimistic pinwheels. I like them all; I notice them all.
Until the rain comes on heavier, or until embarrassment propels them inside, the women will stand on the sidewalks in their brightly colored dresses. They will nod at each other, look up at the sky and wave their hands up at it as if to say Well go ahead and start already before turning and tottering back in.
For me, there are certain moments that scream to be written. They come at the most unexpected times, when I am feeling contemplative or lonely, or when I am stopped in my tracks by strangeness. Like the gathering of rain clouds, they build up until I can write them down. Sometimes, they blow over quickly, leaving the women in my mind shaking their fists at the sky.
Virginia Marshall is a writer and radio producer living in Brooklyn, New York. Her work can be read and/or heard in Catapult, The Harvard Review, Atlas Obscura, Essay Daily, Brevity, The Normal School, NPR's Only a Game, and on WBUR. She tweets @vrosemarshall.