Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Smell the Rain

It was almost dusk and the light was slowly oozing out of sight. He had some difficulty seeing though, and the dust in the air certainly didn't help. He could sense something moving around him, but it seemed too much of an effort to investigate. He was having difficulty concentrating, and his mind seemed unwilling to grant him that favour. There were things and people and events he wanted to remember; it would be a shame to have done so much and then forgotten all about it. Not that he could boast of having been through a lot - he was only 26.

He tried to prioritise - there were things that were important and would need to be done now. What was it his teacher had said? "Put all your tasks into a 2x2 grid, with Urgency and Importance along the axes". Strange that he should be remembering this now. The weirdest memories kept coming back to him. Then there was the time long ago when he hid on the roof of the house on a rainy day - he could vividly remember how it felt to stand there while the rain bit into him. It was as if the raindrops were the first wave of the army, breaking down the defences, while the chill brought up the rear. His next memory was of waiting outside school, having missed the bus, thinking if he even wanted to go home where his mother would definitely yell at him for being careless about the bus timings. He even considered running away from home then, and it seemed to him funny now.

But he really needed to get some things done now. It was getting really dark and it looked like it might rain. The first rains of the season were something he always looked forward to. They always made him feel different, think different. Of course he knew that it was just the change of weather – the change in temperature the rains brought was a pleasant interlude from the sweltering heat of the summer. He knew he had to move before it started raining, but it seemed too much of an effort.

There was this nagging ache in his right ankle again, more an itch than an ache. He desperately wished for someone to scratch it for him. He looked around again, and it was so dark that he could barely see beyond a few feet. The car headlamps were broken and the smaller lamps didn’t help much. He tried looking up again, trying to figure out which way the road was. The wind was getting really strong now, and he could hardly keep his eyes open. Suddenly there was a bright light that passed by a few meters away, and he guessed it must have been another car. The road was a few meters away, and posed a decent climbing challenge for him and he wondered how he could do it.

In the midst of the overpowering smell of petrol that permeated everything around him, he could now smell something different. The first of the raindrops had fallen quickly, there seemed to be less of the dust in the air now. He loved the smell of rain, the smell of wet earth after the first rains, to be precise. They brought back more memories, triggering a wave of nostalgia that overpowered him, completely immobilising him. Out of the corner of his eye he caught a glimpse of sparks around the car battery. Not much time, he told himself, he had to move now; there was very little time before the sparks hit the petrol. He couldn’t move his feet and tried to touch them, but it seemed odd to him that they weren’t where they were supposed to be. The sparks were more frequently visible now, and he tried to drag himself away. But what was it they called the smell of wet earth after the first rains? It had been a Word of the Day once; he clearly remembered that. He knew for sure it sounded like something that was used in laboratories, but it seemed to be infuriatingly out of reach.

Petrichor, he thought, as the first wave of the flame hit him.