Dancing with the Russian Bear.

I couldn’t see a thing in front of me. Beside me, Rene was quiet for once, her whole body rigid as she stared at the wall of water in front of us.

“I don’t know how you do it,” she whispered, her voice filled with panic. “I really don’t.”
I didn’t know either, but I wasn’t going to tell her. I was too focused on the road in front of me, or rather – the lack of road. Working nightshifts had its downfalls.
Exactly an hour and a half ago, Rene – my fellow waitress who everybody called “mini me” and I set off from our job, having strike it lucky to go home early on a deadly quiet night. We had been ecstatic because normally, we were the last two to leave the shop. We knew that it was raining quite hard but it did not dawn on me how hard it was raining until I was in my car struggling through tire high streams of water. The rain was like a white sheet in front of me and all my little Corsa did was throw the water on my windshield from one place to the other. I considered pulling over, but suddenly had flashbacks of a few years ago when I was in a similar situation with my old Uno Fiat. I had also been stuck in a rainstorm and the water had been so high that it not only flooded my car but got into my exhaust and radiator, stalling the car. I managed to get it going again, limping the poor little car home where it finally stalled and refused to go any further. I saw visions of myself being stuck next to the road in the middle of the night with my Corsa with a hysterical Rene, my night’s wages and the odd highjacker or two to keep me company.

No, I decided, I was going to push through.

We crawled to Rene’s home, a mere 3 miles (little bit more than 4km) from where we work, yet the journey took us about half an hour. I found myself occasionally laughing as the water pushed my car from one side to the other. Rene stared at me shocked and shook her head again.

“Why are you laughing?!” she demanded as a car flew past us, anointing my car with more water than it could handle.

“Because I like the rain,” I said as I squinted through the window.

“Why?!” she demanded, not even able to curse.

“Because,” was all I could manage as I stared at the windscreen. “Just because.”

The truth was that I felt alive. Frightened, a bit out of my depth and conscious of my responsibility to get my Mini Me home safely, but alive. I needed that jolt of adrenaline, that touch of the elements to bring me from myself and out into the world. I remember in the beginning of the year when I had to make the harrowing journey from Heathrow to Ludlow in the week where London was completely snowed in. The roads to my original destination (Milton Keynes) was completely blocked and I had to organize on a spur of the moment with other people to lodge me. The journey normally took 4 hours by train, 6 by bus. That day, with snow falling all around us and the bus sliding from side to side on the single lane that was open on the highway, I had stared out of the window at this world of white and felt for the first time since my catastrophic trip home for Christmas that I was alive. Like tonight, it had held a beauty and a brilliance and a raw fear that I cannot describe in words.

So, I squinted out of my fogged up window, feeling the rain pelt against my shoulder and glasses because I had to open the window, listened to Rene as she moaned softly every time I hit a ditch of water, and silently thrilled at the beauty of the world. I dropped Rene off safely, and the last I saw of her before I started my journey home was a tight back and a squeal as rain from her garage fell on her.

I drove home on the highway, with my hazard lights on and my radio blasting away songs from Tracy Chapman and Michael Jackson. (thank you Jacaranda…)Once, I did have a bit of a close call when I realized almost too late that a big Eucalyptus tree had fallen over the highway, but I made it and soon found my way on the last stretch home.

It was only when I got here admittedly, that the adrenaline worked it’s way out and I felt my heart sink to my knees and my head throw with a terrible ache. I’m not much of a drinker, but found myself moving to my drawer where I kept a bottle of Russian Bear Vodka (not mine, I promise) and took a swig, the warm liquor warming my stomach and stilling my mind. Not the best thing for a headache, but it slowed my thoughts and stilled my heart.

I was alive, I thought again as I sat down to try and process the journey. I was alive, and I liked it.

It didn’t happen often, which is why I wanted to share.

Alyss

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