Turnbull opened his eyes when the first drop fell on him. He had spent the night lying in the park, and though it had been cold, it had also been dry. He had been thinking that he’d get out of the park with a layer of dew on him and that was all. So, it was a bit of a surprise when the rain started to fall.
He’d been at the bar the night before, as usual. Some girl he barely knew had called him a weirdo. He didn’t know why that had made such an impression, but it had. And he finally accepted that he was, in fact, a weirdo. It wasn’t something that he planned to try to fix or anything. But it was something that he knew he was going to have to deal with. It wasn’t that he was just a normal guy with bad luck. He was a weirdo. He made weird choices. And that was just the way it was.
The sun had risen while he was asleep, so he could see the overcast sky above him. It wasn’t nice out exactly, but the clouds were high and they didn’t look like they’d have had any rain in them. Looks were deceiving, obviously. The rain started softly, but soon started coming down more heavily.
The grass had just been cut, and so it wasn’t very comfortable. In fact, now that he was fully awake, Turnbull was really noticing how hard the ground was. If he’d had any ideas of where else to go, he would have gotten up and left. Even if he couldn’t find a comfy spot, he wondered if he should just look for a dry place out of the weather. In the end, he just didn’t feel motivated to move at all, so he just stayed where he was, lying on the ground in the rain.
He was a little hung-over, but it certainly wasn’t enough to affect his judgement. Nor was he simply feeling lazy. He just didn’t feel like moving again without a real destination in mind.
In fact, Turnbull was having a kind of large philosophical debate with himself about getting out of the rain. He was sick of always just trying to escape the situation that he found himself in. He felt like he’d spent enough time just fleeing instead of actually trying to get somewhere. And so, he was determined not to move without having a clear idea of where he was going to go. He knew that he was being extreme, but he couldn’t help himself, and, as a result, he just kept lying in the park getting wet.
Unfortunately, both his coat and his pants were wool. They were staying warm enough, but they were absorbing the water that fell on him like a full-body sponge. Soon he weighed thirty or forty pounds more than he had when the rain started. Even if he had been able to think of a destination, he wasn’t sure that he’d be able to get himself up under all that extra weight.
He craned his head forward and up so that he could look around him. The park was defined by city streets lined with trees, surrounded by walk-ups and a few taller towers. One street still had a few old houses left, but most of them had been torn down and replaced by apartment buildings and condos. The old houses looked charming, but pretty run down compared to the newer buildings. Turnbull imagined eccentric old people who owned the houses and refused to move out. They didn’t have the money or energy to keep up the old places, but they weren’t going to leave either.
At the far end of the park, there was a little old lady walking her dog. He wondered if she might be one of the eccentric house owners. She gave no indication that she’d seen him, but he was sure that she must have. He was in the middle of the park, so unless she was blind, she would have had to see him there.
And he knew that, seeing him there, she probably felt disgusted. She probably figured that he was just some drunk who had fallen asleep in the park, and that he lacked the sense to get under cover while the rain came down. Or maybe he was too stoned, or drunk. Or something. In any case, she was wondering what the world was coming too. This wasn’t the city that she had grown up in.
For herself, she had a rain slicker and an umbrella to keep the water off. Her little dog didn’t seem to mind the rain at all. Turnbull remembered the smell of wet dog, and knew that, when he finally did get indoors, the smell of his wet woollen clothes would be somewhat the same. And even though he knew that it wasn’t exactly a pleasant smell, the idea of smelling like a wet dog kind of made him happy.
It only kept raining for about another half hour. It stopped very slowly, getting gradually calmer and calmer, but Turnbull didn’t move until he was sure that the last drop had fallen. His clothes were very heavy with water, but, in spite of what he’d imagined, they weren’t so heavy that he couldn’t move. He decided to head home. He knew his mom would wonder what he was doing. Like the old lady, she would probably be disgusted. Though it would be mixed with motherly affection and confusion. And it would also be yet another reason to wonder why her son had turned out the way he had.
Nonetheless, Turnbull felt good. He knew that rain was often both a metaphor for cleansing, and a good clean in reality as well. The thought had crossed his mind that, in fact, he really could use both. So maybe lying in the rain had been a good idea, even if it was just to get clean.
Once he was up and walking toward home he began to think that it was the kind of dramatic event that he could use to close things. Stories always needed a dramatic event to change direction. He decided that instead of cleansing him, lying in the rain had finally gotten him dirty enough to proceed.
He could tell people about it, and they would see a large enough breakdown to justify turning over a new leaf. For at least some of the people that he knew, lying out in the rain would seem like a monumental crisis. For Turnbull it felt pretty minor, but that just made it even better. If it was going to serve as his crisis, then it was good that it was so small. He wasn’t faking his death or having sex with the wrong people. All he had done was lie out in the rain. And getting wet was a very small cost to pay in exchange for a new start.