I had yet to reach the heart of the city, though.
The road long forgotten had open gardens that swam in several inches of cold rainwater, the potted plants almost floating to the surface. With the raindrops on my glasses, it looked for all the world as though the red-leafed plants, the ferns and thyme and tomato leaves were gently levitating off their designated pots, their roots hanging in the air, threatening to fly off.
It really felt as though I were barging in on something private. Some sort of elaborate concert/ art show thrown by Nature on rainy days, something humans weren’t meant to witness. As though to prove that point, the winds turned more violent, threatening to overturn my polka-dotted umbrella and take it away.
But I didn’t mind. Not a little. Not at all. It had been on my bucket list (back when I still had one) as a child, to be taken away by the wind, even as my mother warned me to hold tight and stay rooted. But if even plant roots were levitating and flying away, there was not much sense left to this world, was there? So it seemed a doable dream: to be flying with the wind on my face, holding on very tightly to an umbrella and waving away at the people below. As a child, it had been right there on my to-do list, along with ‘going to the beach’ and ‘befriending a dragon’. Who knows, if the wind had spirited me away at that moment, it could also have dropped me at the bakery before picking me up again. I wouldn’t have minded. I would have said thank you, really.
I reached a bridge then, and I thought to myself —in the way in which you do not command thoughts, but rather in the way in which they arrive to you— that I would not mind staying there. Not forever, not for 10 minutes or an hour or any amount of time. Without ever counting the minutes or caring for the clock, I would not have minded staying there, simply. I would not have minded listening to the sounds of rushing water, which made that little stream seem so much like a waterfall hidden somewhere in the city. It seemed such an important thing to witness. It became something I had to live.
I stayed by the bridge.
Then, when it felt right, when my head had been filled with just the right amount of waterfall images and water sounds, I moved on.
I reached the bakery, all warm and fragrant, submerged in strong waves of vanilla essence crashing at the entrance, with just the slightest undertone of orange blossom. I sat for 15 minutes in a tiny, crowded office within the bakery filled with ledgers and pens and non-bakery things. The scent of baked goods, of melting butter and chocolate eased my breathing, their warmth soothing my nerves. And slowly, stuttering and speaking too softly, I unraveled. Layer upon layer, like a pain au chocolat, I explained what the cake was meant to be, picked out colours and sizes, fillings and tiers and decorations. Right as I was about to leave though, the smell of the bakery pulled me back in. It seemed a shame to return empty-handed. So, among other things, I returned with a warm—no, hot, hot— pain au chocolat . The golden, buttery layers of puff pastry and the softly melted chocolate warmed my heart on the journey back home.
On the way back, the rain sent me a present. Or a memento, I’m not sure. The smallest little flower, as bright and as luminescent as the sun. A flower from the storm, stark yellow against the greyness of the pavement. As I looked one last time back at the road long forgotten, I realised that my wet boots had left prints on one piece of marvelously still dry pavement. These prints seemed to be proof that I had been there. That I had existed in that evanescent world of rainy days. Though less ephemeral than ripples in the water, these footprints would also very soon disappear, washed away by the water, dried by the sun.
And I thought to myself that this may just be what life is. A walk in the rain down roads unknown, in worlds too impermanent to ever truly matter. But it is this mortality that makes everything so damn beautiful.