Featured Essay   

The Possibility of Rain

by Marlene Olin

 

The sign on the trailer reads Sales Office. Inside, a platter of crudité sits on a shelf.

"A condo to beat all condos," says the realtor. "Picture white sofas. Rivers and Rauschenberg. Glass walls that kiss the ceiling and hug the floor."

When he inches closer, I inch back. Brandishing a brochure, the man points towards the water. Three hundred yards away the ocean slaps against a newly dredged beach.

"You'll stand out on your balcony and see straight to Key Biscayne," he says. "A million dollar view."

Again he inches forward. I inch back. I smell his aftershave and see the wet spots under his arms. Forwards. Backwards. It’s like a dance. When I dig for my car keys and head towards the door, he sidesteps in front of me. The A/C must be set to seventy yet sweat beads on his upper lip. His hand slips like a fish into mine. "They're going fast," he says. "Better get in your deposit. Cash is best."

Suddenly his fingers grip my shoulder. "Make a left to find the expressway," he tells me. "Be sure you take a left."

Instead I head east. Two blocks later the manicured hedges and courtly palm trees disappear. Instead the ground is littered with old newspapers and stray cats. A battered sign says Welcome to Historic____." The rest is graffitied.

I'm an intruder in a truly strange land. I pass a cemetery of concrete caskets. Wooden churches are streaked white, listing. Small houses look like bunkers with grills on the windows and bullet holes in the walls.

Then there they are. While I'm looking to my right and gazing to my left they pass in front on me. One second they're on the curb--the next moment they're negotiating the pavement. It's a small bike, fit really for a kid, but the old man pumps it like a piston. One foot is missing. Instead an empty pant leg is rolled up like a sleeve. A little boy holds onto a handlebar, running, trying to keep up.

At first I think the child is steering, his brown knuckles clutching the handlebar so hard the white shows through. I suck in air when he trips over a rusted can, his knee skimming the asphalt.  But the old man doesn't flinch. Instead he plants his one good leg and glances at me. Two, three seconds pass and the man refuses to look away. The glance sticks.

The air is thick with humidity—I can swear I hear lightening crack—so I flip switches. The wipers swoop like eyelashes. I've pushed the washer button for good measure and crane my neck to watch them through the mist. Together they head toward the sidewalk. Five feet. Three feet.

I want to linger. I imagine their path weaving in and out of the street, picture a wave of onlookers watching their wake. Perhaps a dog will follow. Maybe a woman with an apron and a batch of freshly baked cookies sits by the kitchen clock and waits.

Instead I floor the gas.


 

Marlene Olin was born in Brooklyn, raised in Miami, and educated at the University of Michigan. She recently completed her first novel. Her stories have been published in Vine Leaves, The Saturday Evening Post, Upstreet Magazine, and Emrys Journal. She will be featured in Poetica and The Edge in the coming months.

 

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