Rain the other day was sporadic, but when it came, it didn’t fuck around. It was sunny when I left the apartment, and so I didn't bring an umbrella., but I’m not even sure an umbrella would have been any use against such a sideways storm. It came in splashes as if a fire brigade were tossing pails of water onto a burning building. I did my best to find shelter during the worst of it, and I found myself in the Chelsea Market on West 15th Street. I perused a bookstore there and bought a book.
“Would you like a bag?” the cashier asked.
She apparently had no idea what was going on outside.
“I think I better,” I said.
After a while, the rain let up. Not entirely, but enough to convince me I could make it to the subway entrance without winding up like I was dressed in sopping dishrags. I only got halfway down the block before the sky began vomiting water again. I sidestepped into only shelter around— a shallow, nondescript doorway. Neither the camera, intercom, or a keycard reader gave any indication of what was behind the painted metal doors, but they didn't appear very active. A service entrance of some kind. In any case, the doors were set into the building by about a foot and a half providing me a relatively rain-free place to stand. Because of the severe angle of the rain, it wasn’t perfect but, well, any port in a storm as they say.
A moment later a group of people passed by me — two men and two women, each holding an umbrella like a Spartan's shield as they pushed forward against the watery onslaught. One of the women noticed me and decided I had the right idea. She pulled the whole group into the shallow entryway next to me, while still keeping their umbrellas open. It made the entire thing like a humid tent, and suddenly I was intensely claustrophobic. The guy nearest me — a short, middle-aged Polish guy (speaking Polish in any case) — was so close I had to press into the wall in order not to touch him. He wore an oversized nylon tank top with the name and number of what I assumed was a famous basketball player. The shirt smelled like it had been worn by a famous basketball player, too, and given it to the guy immediately after the game. “I’m never going to wash this shirt!” I imagined the Polish guy saying. (Although I imagined him saying it in English.) I got a good lungful of the smell when, in an attempt to make myself as skinny as possible so as not to touch his wet, hairy shoulders, I inhaled deeply. After briefly gagging, I pulled my T-shirt over my nose and mouth as subtly as possible — which, of course, means not subtly at all since a T-shirt over the nose is the international symbol for something smelling so bad that you're willing to expose your somewhat soft middle-aged gut to avoid it.
Across the street, I could see a large awning with no one under it — a much better shelter than where I stood. There was even enough room over there to pace around a little f I wanted to. Maybe some light stretching. Unfortunately, it was still flash-flood-warning sideways raining and merely crossing the street would have gotten me as wet as walking to the subway, which would have defeated the whole purpose. There I was, caught between a rock and a hard place, between the Devil and the deep blue sea, between a wet, smelly, hairy shoulder and a torrential downpour.
Fuck it, I finally decided, and I jogged the remaining distance to the train. By the time I got there, my shoes were like leaky canoes, and my jeans were loaded with ten times their weight in water. Two guys standing at the bottom of the subway stairs laughed at me as I squeezed past them.
You guys don't understand, I wanted to say.
It was sunny by the time the train reached Brooklyn and, waiting for the bus, my pant legs were steaming.