Ben had never thought of the rain as romantic before.
He equated it with the dank, dark parts of himself that he tried to keep hidden. The self-deprecating thoughts that kept him up at night, staring at the ceiling of another cheap hotel. Ben didn’t like the rain. It was cold and depressing. It reminded him too much of himself. He hated the thunder and lightning that sometimes followed. The thunder felt like it rumbled through his entire being, the pounding behind his eyes coupled with the blinding lightning flooding his vision and awakening the worst parts of himself. The parts he so desperately wished ceased to exist and yet made up so much of who he thought himself to be.
Or used to be.
When he arrived in Pawnee, Indiana the Sun seemed to shine a little brighter.
Even when it did rain, it wasn’t long before the Sun began to peak through the dark clouds and a golden hue appeared on the edges of Ben’s vision serving to chase away the smattering of sadness that appeared on the horizon. The Sun was nice to Ben. Well. The Sun was cruel at first. Much like anyone else, when the Sun felt threatened, she lashed out. The surface of the Sun ran hot and possessed a fire that Ben, so familiar with the rain, didn’t know how to handle. The Sun was brave and sometimes foolhardy and Ben was burnt more than once before he realised that he saw something of himself, or the person he used to be in the Sun and that he very much craved to bask in the light in which the Sun bathed.
Over time, the Sun mellowed. She was bright and effervescent at her peak and people rotated around her, shining in her rays. When the day ended and She began to soften, She appeared not just as a yellow force of energy but an orange haze and a pink curtain. Ben learned that the Sun was vulnerable, intelligent and caring and as passionate as She was during the day, he liked these parts of her the best.
The more Ben saw the Sun, the greedier he became. Seeing the Sun during the day kept the rain away and he felt himself begin to grow and flourish just being close to her. Ben decided to stay in Pawnee. The Sun began to smile on him and him alone and the Pawnee Agricultural Society stormed the Parks department demanding to know why it wouldn’t rain.
You know, because the Parks department controlled the weather and all. Climate change? Psssh. As if that was actually real.
One day, She became the Moon.
Ben saw her not just during the day but during the night as well. He luxuriated in her dazzling, pale skin and luminous sheen and drank her in until he was full. He rose with her at sun up and spent his days basking in her brilliance before marvelling at her all through the night. He kissed her golden crown and tasted the warmth of her skin and She saw her milky keen reflected in his joy and sank her lustre into his every pore.
He was happy. The happiest he had ever been. So naturally, came the arrival of storm season.
The Sun turned her gaze away but for a second and he immediately began to retreat within himself. The dark clouds returned, simmering first just beneath the surface before roaring to the front of his mind and taking residence in his every thought. The Sun no longer belonged to him. Neither did the Moon. The rain came and poured for the longest time. Thunder boomed and lightning flashed and Ben became a shadow of himself, trailing far enough behind the Sun so not to be seen but close enough to cast a dark figure upon surfaces intercepting the slimmest of rays from her light.
Winter came. The Sun lost some of her sparkle. She continued to shine, but her warmth carried a mild chill. The days grew shorter and the Moon was seldom seen behind a wall of cloud.
She stopped being his Sun.
She became Leslie.
Months passed. The storm within Ben continued to rage. Leslie lashed out at Ben, inadvertently hurting him when all she wanted was to cement her place in his life. Ben wallowed in a cesspool of his own misery, unable to pull himself out of his current funk on his own.
One day, everything changed.
Leslie became his Sun, his Moon, his centre. The clouds disappeared, the storms stopped and Ben once again became enveloped in the Sun’s warmth. He could taste the saltiness of her skin, revel in the feel of her hands and the knowledge that she, for reasons he had yet to fully understand, loved him.
And once again, he began to grow. He became the man he wanted to be. He became one of a group of friends. He became an Uncle. He became a husband. Leslie became his wife.
Time passed and the seasons continued to change. Storm season arrived without aplomb, Ben unaffected by the rain, the thunder and the lightning.
The rain didn’t make him sad anymore. Rain didn’t mean a long, lonely night where the wind howled and his car became bogged on a dirt road in the back end of nowhere. Rain meant a glass of wine on the couch with Leslie with a blanket draped over the two of them. Rain allowed for movies and snuggling. Rain meant an opportunity to delay a park clean-up for time spent beneath the sheets, breathing each other in.
And one fall afternoon in Ramsett Park it meant running for cover with Leslie, the latter shrieking with laughter as they hid under a tree to escape a sudden downpour that had interrupted their walk. They huddled together, Leslie cowering in his arms in her light sundress. Her hair was plastered to her scalp as rivers of water ran down her cheeks. He was faring no better, his jacket which was partially dry quickly leaving his shoulders to cover hers and his hair plastered to his forehead in a similar fashion.
Three years ago, the rain would have completely soured his mood. Before Pawnee, before Leslie, before he realised that it wasn’t the rains fault that he felt miserable. A natural weather phenomenon didn’t dictate his moods. That was largely his doing. And only he could do something about it.
He tilted her chin up toward him and grinned despite himself. Leslie was freezing cold but she was smiling and she was without a doubt the most stunning woman he had ever seen.
“You’ve never looked more beautiful to me than you do right now,” he said softly, pushing her hair back from her face. She bit her lip, struck by the tenderness of his touch and his words. “I’m so glad to be sharing this moment with you.”
She answered him with a blistering kiss, standing on tip toe to meet his lips as her heels struggled with the damp earth beneath her feet. He met her with equal fervour, brushing her lips with his once more before he pulled away.
“Let’s get you home and into some warm clothes.”
Leslie agreed with a shiver. “Yes please.”
Ben knelt down and gestured for her to hop on his back. “Come on.”
She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and her laughter resumed as Ben carried her across the park to his car in the pouring rain, the ground around them resembling the Great Lakes. As he set Leslie down with a mock groan and they buckled themselves in, he turned on the car heater as Leslie sang along the radio. She had wrung the water out of her hair and had it piled up on her head in a messy bun, his jacket casually slung around her. He reached across the console to link their fingers as he indicated out of the car park and headed for home.
Maybe there was something to be said for rain being romantic after all.