It’s raining, and I gave away my umbrella to a guy who swore that he loved me. I’d be furious, but I’ve always been the sort of girl who prefers to dance in a downpour instead of running for some shelter. Besides, I look really good wet.
I used to be proud of being someone who routinely beckons the unpredictable and the mildly unattainable to inch closer to me, but now I find myself wondering: is the stability inherent in feeling warm and safe worthy of cancelling out the mystery I’ve never been able to stop myself from craving? There has to be a balance that exists between the embrace of the comfortable and the thrill of the unknown. Sometimes I’m positive I’ve found it, but then a new hunger beckons and I tiptoe away from the light to see what’s crouching in the shadows and reflecting up at me from the puddles and I can no longer even pretend to deny that there’s something undeniably alluring about the torrential grey rain. The sudden exposure, the way it almost feels dangerous – how it soaks you so completely that it’s like you’re newly constructed, a different assortment of cells than you were before. And there’s a wantonness that comes from being cracked open by all that water. Your shirt is molded to your body and your hair drips down onto your shoulders and, even with lines of mascara running like indecipherable messages down your cheeks, you know nobody has ever understood you more completely than the way you’re understood during that storm. You also know you have never felt sexier or more alive.
For me, the barrage of rain has always brought forth a feeling of possibility. There’s something about the wildness of that kind of weather and the scent it leaves behind that I’m drawn to far more than all those Clean Cotton candles lining my living room. The patter of water hits my downstairs windows at odd angles and I recline on my couch with a cup of peppermint tea and I stare at the patterns made by the reverberation of the water and I become who I really am: a dreamer. And that’s a far more complicated thing to be than some rather fortunate people will ever know.
It’s interesting that a song titled after a body of water brings a question I’ve often wondered about bobbing to the mind’s surface. In The River, Springsteen poses, “Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true, or is it something worse?” and I’m here to tell you that, from my perspective, a dream that remains unfulfilled is way fucking worse than a lie. Those are the dreams that will haunt you. They will invade your sleep and become the cause of your nightmares and they will reoccur time and time again until you begin pondering why your own subconscious is clearly plotting against you. The unrealized dreams will stay spinning in your thoughts and they will warp your soul with shooting pangs of pain that whisper and hiss, “This almost happened for you…” while you wince and cower and proclaim to your bathroom mirror and to the most overcast of skies that you will never allow yourself to dream ever again. You will not be able to keep that promise; it will be just another dream you’ve had that will not come true.
If you’re not entirely vigilant, the unfulfilled dream can end up becoming that which defines you – and that’s a very dangerous slope to teeter on. What exists just over that jagged cliff is a sea of regret, an undertow of blistering anger that’s cut with a toxic dusting of sadness. Simply put, it is loss you will be wading through if you allow yourself to fall and you will find yourself drowning in something that never really was. You have to fight to regain your footing. You must force yourself to remember what was real and what was just a candy-coated illusion. Yes, just the idea of it tasted like honey and unbridled fucking delight, but it was never tangible. You never actually held it with both of your hands. There were times you had a good solid grip, but there were even more times you watched as it slipped away.
But cautionary whispers and self-directed ruthless censure aside, I have to tell you that I heard an expression the other day that settled someplace deep inside my head in a manner that feels like it could maybe be permanent. A man was speaking about a friend he’d lost touch with and there was both wistfulness and sorrow lining the tenor of his voice as he described that person as “one of my favorite dreaming partners.” And in spite of it all, I think if I could choose how some people remember me during those bleak rainy days when memories always feel heightened, it would be as a worthy coconspirator who listened and cheered and indulged their dreaming. It would be as a person who had her own dreams. And it would be as the girl who made them feel like they could and would accomplish anything and everything, even as the heavens opened and the rains fell down.
Nell Kalter teaches Film and Media at a school in New York. She is the author of the books THAT YEAR and STUDENT, both available on amazon.com in paperback and for your Kindle. Also be sure to check out her website at nellkalter.com Her Twitter is @nell_kalter