3:35pm today

The rainy season began at 3:35 pm October 31, 2002, today. Few things in the tropics are this certain, this exact. Siestas have no particular beginning or end, verb tenses are non-existent and promoting unclear chronologies. In temperate zones, the seasons may be marked on the calendars, but these days are probably only celebrated by elementary school children and astronomers.

We were sitting talking about the Indonesian military, as one does in this house, when the humid, hot afternoon suddenly lost 10 degrees fahrenheit in the course of as many minutes. The sweat started drying on our foreheads. Grey poured towards us, and dark patches swelled forth. Then we heard rolling thunder once. Then a second time. At this moment, I finally allowed myself to think that today could be the day. Our Timorese friends and sources had all insisted “next week,” some being so bold as to pick the date November 2, All Saints Day.

A couple of minutes later it seemed possible this could be all part of a dramatic build-up, that we would actually have to wait until next week. The sky lightened. Then the pattering began. Unintelligible at first, was only briefly in the background. Rain today could never be white noise. I hopped up to see the neighbor behind pulling clothes off the line. I repeated what I had been told about a local taboo against dancing or standing in the first rain. And there were no screams of relief or children dancing. Just a beautiful peace.

The two dozen doves in the next yard left their house and flew together, three circuits over head, a spontaneous salute. The rain was still soft and slow. The sky was a simple silvery grey. We silently waited for the great din on the corragated metal roof of the porch. We were waiting for large drops splashing up from the ground, puddles, the feeling of drenching. I watched the orchids hanging at the end of the patio drink up what they could.

Only a couple of minutes later and the din on the roof came. It felt like a legitimate rain. The sense of relief was finally complete. I sat back in my chair. It felt like the seasons had changed in the middle of our conversation.


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