For the Rain Dogs


Night of the Rain Dog

The rain is falling like silver beads off the broken necklace of the sky, and I hug close to the eaves of the storefronts and brick townhouses. The buildings fit together so snugly, rubbing shoulders in the cold, that it’s easy to feel safe just leaning against the slick stone walls.

Every street looks the same after a while – I’ve been all over Europe and I’m having trouble remembering what I saw and where I saw it so it’s a good thing I take notes. The people are not friendly, here. I duck into a recessed doorway, the hanging wooden sign above swinging with the wind. What’s on the sign? Perhaps a rain dog.

A rain dog, according to Tom Waits, is a dog that gets lost in the rain, because the scent is washed away, so it can’t sniff out the trail that will lead it back home. I don’t know if Waits made that up, or if it’s a real bit of regional American folklore. But in another sense, a rain dog is a person who can’t find their way home anymore because they are no longer a part of the everyday world; not necessarily a homeless person, but a lost soul, certainly.

It’s a cold, sharp rain and I don’t have a hat or an umbrella, so I’m compelled to pull these little things off my ears. These little things like kittens I have to protect all the time – so fragile and small, so easy to damage, so easy to lose. I can’t wear them in the rain, the water could destroy the sensitive electronics. The wind and the rain and the traffic are suddenly muted, and merge into one indistinguishable roar, the roar of some tellurian beast you have nightmares about when you’re a kid.

Now I’m a rain dog. I’m disoriented standing there in an old timbered doorway, not sure what direction the sounds, now a muffled Sound, is coming from, and with the rain it’s a little hard to see, too. I’m afraid if I step out I’ll get hit by a bicycle, or maybe even a taxi. And then my sense of direction gets all out of whack. We judge the distance and direction of sound to orient ourselves in space, kinda like a spider suspends itself in the center of its delicate web – the strands, invisible, leading in all directions.

So for a moment, I’m in the center of my own compass rose but all the petals have fallen off. I’m a rain dog. The world around me is no longer three dimensional, and I’m not sure how I can move around in it. I have to shake off a sense of rising anxiety, but finally I just dart out. Get it over with. Somehow, that sort of impulsiveness leads me where I need to go, I just have to turn off that part of my mind that does all the thinking.


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