I was raised in a neighborhood where the Lafayette
and Elizabeth Rivers meet. Along the bulkhead
at the end of the block, beneath the water’s surface,
jellyfish fluttered. These rivers were good neighbors,
rarely overlapped their banks, but during summer
storms, the streets often flooded. Holding hastily
made boats of paper and popsicle sticks, my siblings
and I leapt barefoot into that weather. We organized
impromptu races in the runoff coursing alongside
the curbs toward the maws of the overworked drains.
One year, a hurricane skirted the coast, pushed the river
closer and closer to our door, until the water reached
the final stair beneath our front porch planks.
But we were too young to sense danger. After
the river receded, we examined shreds of sea grass,
jellyfish, fish—the detritus spread like treasure
along the street. That neighborhood is now 190 miles
and decades away. I can’t exactly pinpoint when
my relationship with rain turned from open-hearted
to ambivalent. Today is a Tuesday of intermittent
downpours. I’ve driven 30 miles to a seafood market
in search of shrimp freshly trawled. I’m one of three
customers scanning whole fish spread across crushed
ice; trays bearing perfect fillets, scallops, shrimp.
The air carries the tang of fish, the underlying scent
of salt. It’s been twenty-some years since the seafood
market where I shopped each week was decimated
by Hurricane Fran, never reopened. On my way
home, I pass a Honda that has hydroplaned
on the interstate—fender smashed; front grill gone.
Photo: Adobe Stock Photo