This week: rain, sun, rain, sun, sun, sun, rain. Rain.
I’ve been looking for a rainbow for days.
In French, the word is arc-en-ciel, which is beautiful. I murder the language when I try to speak it but I love it still, because words transform from pedestrian in English – trash can – to glamorous, glorious, in French: poubelle. I imagine, have suspected for years, that it could turn me into something more fabulous, too.
This week, at certain moments, I heard the rain start, the drumming on the rooftop; I saw it out the window from time to time, shimmering drops diving towards the earth. And if I could, in those moments, I found my way outside, to see if there was also sun, to see if I could spot my first rainbow of the year.
I started taking French when I was 11. My family had recently moved halfway across the country and I stood out in every way: too-long hair, too-thick accent, too-young body. I learned not to say anything, for fear of saying the wrong thing, for fear of making myself ever more different. It was not the time to practice a new language; I meekly uttered words when required, instead of testing out the rolling of my tongue with pride. And somehow that became habit, so that high school French and college French – even though I was louder by then, more myself – remained a place of untested echoes.
Il pleut, il fait beau.
Once, this week, when I went outside, a young man joined me. “What are you looking for?” he asked, as he ignored my suggestion to return inside, out of the rain. “A rainbow,” I told him. “Hm,” he said, scanning the horizon. “There isn’t one out here.” He was right, and he walked away, but I remained a minute longer.
In Paris, in the spring, rainbows are commonplace, reaching over Haussmann’s buildings, cementing the parks – parcs – as perhaps the most idyllic on the planet. Parisians are unfazed, but I am not Parisian, so I stop and stand, wherever I am – in the middle of a boulevard, while crossing a bridge – to gawk. Paris allows such indiscretions, and I am not in junior high anymore and it doesn’t matter whether I am from a place: I can claim it anyway.
My friends started seeing rainbows this week before I did, and they are sweet friends so they took the time to text them to me. It was almost as good as finding my own. Almost.
And then I drove home from work yesterday, across a pont – bridge – in my town. And there it was, peeking out from clouds just above the second gas station on the east side of the road.
And I shouted out, “Rainbow rainbow rainbow” without commas or pauses and without anyone responding and it was so wonderful I decided to chase it and I chased it all the way to my house where I pulled into the driveway and got out of the car and ran towards the backyard, the rain pelting me again and again on my sweater that was not too warm and not warm enough all day long, and my dogs came out to see me, my dear chiens, and my heart was happy, so very very very happy, and that was all I really wanted, so I stood in the rain and twirled, the arc-en-ciel growing brighter and brighter until suddenly, somehow, it wasn’t there at all.