The Rain Time

I remember when the Rain-Time came. The sky grew dark with turgid cloud and thunder rumbled in the hills. Across the desert I could see it coming, a haze on the horizon. The air smelled strange. The People vibrated with anticipation. I, being small, wondered what was going on. My best friend Kallit didn’t know.
But then an Auntie told us. “It’s a time to celebrate,” she said, “a time of life and love and flowers. It’s a time of no thirst.”

This sounded good, but still my skin tingled when I heard the thunder and a shiver ran the length of my spine when the first drops fell. Will it hurt at all? I wondered, but didn’t tell my doubt to Kallit. The sky looked scary and I couldn’t find the sun. Water was one of two things to my untried mind. Either it was hot and salty, stinging my flesh when I waded in the copper sea, or it was sweet but warm and tasting of leather. Of the sweet, there was never enough. Being little, I could drink my fill but I was already being taught restraint.

More drops pattered down. Kallit and I tried to dodge them but soon we were outnumbered and surrounded, there was no escape. I opened my mouth for an experimental taste and found it cool and clean. Soaked to the skin, we shed our clothes and discovered a new and wonderful thing, the feel of water running down our bare, brown bodies. We laughed and laughed, thunder now laughing with us. We whirled and danced, pounding feet into quickly forming mud the same shade as our skin. Deep, gritty cracks became thirsty mouths that supped up the moisture. Our hair clung in matted clumps to our thin shoulders, and still we drummed on soggy dirt.

Though mid-day, the sky was dark and dim. It confused our light-adjusted eyes. Still the water sheeted down in slanting floods until we felt like drowning. At the pinnacle of the dance, at our leaping, spinning best, the elders started emerging from the huts. There we were, capering naked in the rain. We gaped at them, fearing wrath or judgement. Kallit made a pouch-mouse squeak of dismay. The clan-chief saved our girlish modesty by flinging his kilt aside and leaping higher than even Kallit could, letting out a joyous shout! The whole village was quick to follow, wet brown bodies emerging from cocoons of cloth and leather. Uncles and aunties, maidens, mothers, youths and crones, stolid fathers, and little ones all went mad just dancing in the rain.

I later learned that this was the heaviest rain in a generation. It filled our cisterns, replenished our seeps. The desert burst into flood and flower. The herds came with hooves of thunder, and the nomads that belonged to them. Marriages and trades were made. I tasted my first fresh fruit. For a time, life was gentle as a mother’s kiss. And always after, Kallit and I remembered that first, best dance.