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I feel like raindrops have been following me my whole life. Slowly dripping, tiptoeing behind me in my shadow and at other times chasing me at a downpour, drenching me as I try and dodge the wet droplets. The rain has been incorporated in my life during times when life changing events have happened and enclosed in my dreams, frightening me out of my sleep.
Ever since I was a little girl, I have hated the rain. Besides the physical pains of it all; the headaches from the pressure in the air and my bones aching, there are also the mental issues. Yes, I have plenty of mental issues. Anxiety fills my veins as the rain begins and doesn’t leave until the clouds part and the sun shines brightly. Sometimes, I catch it too late and that is when depression kicks in. There is something about the dreariness of the weather that sets me on a whirlwind mentally. With my shoulders slouched, my mind is dark and I feel incapable of living. The weather infuses itself into my mind and makes it heavy. The weight makes me sag and hang deep below my normal surface and it tends to become stagnant there, unwilling to move until I am strong enough to push, yank and tear my way out of it. Not all the time though, just the times where I don’t catch myself before I fall down those slopes.
I typically won’t leave the house or wherever I may be at the time the showers start and I plead to anyone that will listen to stay put until it ends. An unsettled feeling builds within my heart and I’m afraid that something bad will happen; scared someone will get hurt. Some people understand and some people say, to my surprise, that I have issues. I could have told them that.
In the small chance that I succumb to the constant whine of others and actually go out and live my life in the rain, I carry one of my umbrellas. I have red ones, blues ones, striped ones and polka dots. I have a lots, like my frog one, from when I was a little girl and now that I’m almost 20, I have chosen to only break those out when I want to embarrass the person I will be standing next to.
I have been collecting umbrellas since before I can remember. There’s a picture that I have from Christmas when I was two years old and I’m unwrapping the one with strawberries all over it and in the background of that photo are my frog, rainbow and duck ones leaning against the wall next to the front door, so this hoarding aspect of my character must have started before then. My closet is full of them, along with the hallway closet and it has infiltrated the attic, kicking out all the nonsense that Pops keeps. They are shoved under my bed, the trunk of my car and in boxes in the garage that has once again evicted Pops’ things. I’m still waiting for the day he freaks out on me as he pulls up in the driveway and passes all his belongings that are sitting on the curb awaiting their final trip to the landfill as I make room for my beloved umbrellas, but he seems to handle it very nicely. He practically acts as if he hasn’t noticed, so I’ll continue to do it until he screams at me. Pops is actually the one that has contributed the most to my umbrella collection. My birthday, Christmas, Hanukkah (and we aren’t even Jewish) and every other holiday you can think of, he would hand me a wrapped present in a long odd shape and it would be a brand new one. One time, he bought me one for his birthday. I thought that was a bit odd, but I graciously accepted it.
I believe my Mom and Dad were the culprits in getting this obsession started, buying me them because of my extreme loathing of the rain. There have been many major hissy fits that have occurred due to the combination of my insistence that something bad was going to happen and the reaction I had when the moistness hit my skin. So, their solution was those umbrellas. They told me it was my shield, a shield to protect me from the pain and fear I felt and I believed them wholeheartedly. When I had one in my hand covering my body, I felt nothing could hurt me. I can’t even recall the last time a raindrop touched my skin.
When I didn’t have one, especially in the house because my Mom believed the superstition, “Open an umbrella indoors and bad luck will “rain” upon you”, I used to hide under my bed at the first rap of thunder and wail at the first glimpse of a small wet mark hitting the wood that made the porch. I was under my bed so often, thanks to good ole Mother Nature, my Dad and I decked it out under there. I had shelving for my books, pictures hanging from the rails, stuffed animals galore, pink streamers for decoration, small Christmas tree lights for lighting, and pillows and blankets that I kept under there ready to go for when I needed to retreat for safety. There wasn’t much room, but it was my fortress.
When I was about 6 years old, I stole a storage box from my Dad’s bar down in the basement. The box contained little umbrellas from a Luau themed barbeque that my parents threw one summer. I remembered their friends walking around with them hanging out of their drinks all night long. I took my markers and colored each one differently, then took duct tape and fastened the newly designed umbrellas to each one of my stuffed animals’ hand, so they would be safe to. I didn’t just keep my paranoia to myself. I pushed them upon everyone and everything close to me. When my parents would leave for work, or anywhere for that fact, I would shove an umbrella in their hand. Sometimes, they would nonchalantly place them down somewhere where they would think I wouldn’t notice, but I always did and gave them an ear full when they returned. Pops on the other hand took them with great pleasure and without hesitation. When he knew I was watching out the window as he headed towards his truck, he would open it up proudly, even when it wasn’t raining and the sun shined bright. It’s kind of funny to see your Grandfather sporting a bright pink umbrella with a smiley face imprinted on it above his head while clutching a case of his favorite beer in the other, headed for a get together with his old time war buddies.
It’s not as horrible these days to exit my house while the rain falls down. I’m older now and I know it won’t physically hurt me, but I rather not. And, that is exactly what I was thinking as I was staring at the chipping paint on the bottom of my magenta colored dresser, while laying on my side across my bed listening to the sound of droplets hitting the tree outside my window. My long brown hair was strewn across my face making it so that the dresser was the only thing I could see besides the opening to my closet. My knees were brought into my chest and my hands were tightly squeezed around them. My mission was to make myself as little as I possibly could, trying to be nonexistent to everyone especially myself.
I get in these moods a lot. It seems that the frequency of their happenings comes and goes in their intensity and longevity. Sometimes, it will be a week or two before the switch takes place. Other times, it’s within minutes. The switch being my mood swings. The high flying upswing of those is a breathlessly beautiful with my face hurting from the endless amounts of smiles emitting from my face. The downward end of the moods, the back-swing, are where the trouble lies in wait, awaiting to pounce on me and wishing with its fingers crossed that I won’t be prepared. The less preparation and fight I give, the easier and longer it suffocates me.
I have been feeling like shit for a while now, hiding it the best I could from my family, but the back swing swung higher today and I wasn’t prepared at all. Hence, why I have encased myself in this position on my bed, undecided on whether or not I want to breathe again. I knew I had to get up any second because Pops wants his hair cut for his date tonight. He has enlisted me in this job ever since I’ve lived with him and we have the same spat every time because we differ on mishaps. Being that I am not a professional, it’s understandable that a mistake will occur, but his point is that I have been doing it for so long now that I should have mastered it being that he has had the same haircut forever, the typical old guy one. His hair parted on the side and combed over the top. He likes me to fix a mistake I made on his hairline and I just say “Eh, just shave it.” He always wins that battle though because he says he has a dent on the top of his head. The fact that I have one to match his makes me relent in my stance and mend my mishap.
As I lay in my spot waiting to hear his bellowing voice calling for me and bang on the wall, I was enamored by the choice in paint color whomever owned the dresser before me had chosen to paint it. Granted, I didn’t like the baby pink I had chosen when I was little, but that orangey-green puke color that was peering through under the chipping magenta and light pink made me question other people’s sanity.
My mind was flip-flopping between the nonsense of the dresser, to disappointment that air was entering my lungs, to my hair getting in my eyes. I think my head does that on purpose, trying to snap me out of my funk by focusing on mundane things such as chipping paint; the sane part that lives on inside me trying to grab my attention away from the devil in there. There was a rap of thunder coming from the heavens above that made me jump a few inches off my bed and land in the exact same spot and reconnect with the paint again.
“Nora, Let’s go!” Pops had just yelled for me shocking me out of my comatose stare.
“I’m coming, I’m coming,” I grumbled as I sat up groggy from lying there and maybe from the pill that I took a little before. I’m not sure what it was, it was small and white. I grabbed it from Pops’ medicine cabinet while he was at the store earlier. That’s my biggest secret, stealing pills from everyone. Pops, my uncles, cousins, and from everyone else’s house I just so happen to be in. My uncle Mike is one of my biggest suppliers. He conveniently and unknowingly delivers them to me to my doorstep. He has heart problems, stress problems, mental problems, anger problems, kidney, stomach, sleep, back, and knee problems and he is prescribed a pill for each. He carries them around with him wherever he goes in a blue backpack that he leaves by the front door when he comes over.
I took a quick peek in the mirror to wipe off the mascara that fell beneath my eyes to hide the fact that I was melted into my bed a moment before. I put my slippers and black hoodie on and headed down the steps, skipping the third one from the bottom that Pops has named “Diablo” because, for as long as I can remember, it made a high pitched creek when pressure was placed on it. Pops said it was a sound only the devil could make. So, we all avoid it as much as possible.
“What’s the big hurry? You have a hot date or something?!” I asked with a hint of laughter as I landed on the floor at the bottom of the steps in front of him because I already knew the answer.
“Yes, I do as a matter of fact and you know how she gets when I’m late and I would rather not have to hear it, so come on. Let’s go,” he had a towel around his shoulders to block the hair from getting on his clothing, his typical attire, flannel shirt that was tucked into a pair of jeans and brown loafers.
“Molly isn’t exactly ‘hot’…,”
Pops interrupted me, “Here we go again. Let’s hear it. She is ugly. She looks like a mouse. She’s annoying. Come on, let’s hear,” he stated as he led the way to the bathroom in the hall by the kitchen.
“All I am saying is that, in my opinion, she isn’t the best out of the bunch.”
Pops is a ladies’ man, always has been. There is always a different girl on his arm for every family occasion. He has a date five out of the seven days in a week. I have no clue how he keeps up with them all. They all know about each other and they all keep coming back. Things can get a little catty between them and I have heard arguments occurring on the front porch between two women when he gets the days mixed up and they both showed up to ring the doorbell. That has actually happened a few times, old age memory I’m guessing. He is old, his80th birthday is coming up and the man has held onto his looks. He is slender for his elevated height of 6’2. His brown eyes twinkle whenever he smiles widely, but that rarely happens. An “I don’t give a shit” look is permanently fixed on his face most of the time and with that you are lucky if you get his smirk, a smirk that slants to the left side of his face and barely shows his pearly whites. He still has a full head of thick hair, too.
I have been living with him for the past thirteen years, one of which was with my parents. We moved in here with Pops when my dad, Davey, got laid off from a factory that he worked at with Pops and my uncle Mike. However, a year after we made the move they died in a car accident on their way home from Giovanni’s, a restaurant a few blocks away. So, now it’s Pops and I alone in this big old house. Well, we aren’t exactly alone all the time. His sons, my uncles, come by constantly. I’m surrounded by testosterone here; my Uncle Mike has three sons, Drew, Elijah and Brody, who are all the same age and not triplets, my Uncle Brian has one son Colin, my Uncle Alex also has a son, Evan and then there is Uncle John who doesn’t have any kids, which is surprising since he gets around just as much as Pops and Mike. He is only 4 years and 9 months older than me. Growing up with a bunch of men has definitely changed me since my mom died. The biggest being my mouth. They like to be crude and curse up a storm and sadly it has become one of my biggest flaws. I try to hold my tongue, but sometimes it gets away from me.
“Come on. She isn’t that bad. She’s a nice lady.”
“Oh, yeah she is just wonderful,” I said in a lovely tone while my eyes rolled.
“What is it you don’t like?”
“She’s a stalker, Pops!”
“No, she isn’t,” he said dumbfounded.
“Hello? Open your eyes, Man! She calls here constantly, shows up here all the time, uninvited I must add, she happens to be at almost every place you go. I’m surprised you haven’t tripped over her, yet!” I said as I flipped the switch on the razor.
“What if I like that?” he yelled over the buzzing.
“Then, you are as insane as she is.”
Pops began to laugh until I gave him a playful smack to the top of his head to eliminate the possibility of a screw up. Too late, though because his hairline wasn’t so much of a straight line anymore. I tried not to show it, but he caught my face, a face with big blue eyes that can’t hide anything, in the mirror that he sat in front of.
“What? What did you do?” he asked as his hand reached to the back of his neck to feel where I went wrong.
“No big deal. I’ll fix it,” I quickly stated with my eyes bulging out, even though I have no clue how I would unless I glued the hair back on.
“Relax. Relax,” I said as I patted him on his shoulder.
As Pops relaxed more in his chair, I got to work on his hair. “So, what are you doing tonight?” Pops asked.
“I don’t know. Skylar might come over,” I replied with a shrug of my shoulders. Skylar didn’t know about that, yet. I haven’t spoken to her all day. When I’m finish up here I’ll give her a ring and I know she would come over once I tell her the way I have been feeling.
“Sounds fun. Speaking of fun, um, Molly is going to be here any minute, so can you hurry up?”
“You can’t rush perfection,” I said and took the attachment to the razor off and grabbed a larger one to replace it. I began to shave and blend the hair in the back, but with my first movement I realized, since his scalp and tiny hairs were staring at me, that I grabbed a smaller one instead. “Uh oh!” I cried as I slowly backed away from another mishap.
“What? What happened?” he questioned as he stood up closer to the mirror, trying to maneuver his head to view his bald spot in the back of his head.
“Um, do you know that sweet haircut that Marines have…Do you like it?” I slowly asked with a twisted face, scared, but already knowing, his answer.
“Eleanora May Boutilier! What the hell is wrong with you?” he said.
The thing with Pops is that he isn’t an angry man, him being mad typically lasts for 30 seconds and it’s gone and that was evident when he looked at my face which already had a half smirk upon it and burst out laughing. I reached for the little mirror to hold it in front of him while he had his back towards the big mirror and he got his first glance at his almost naked spot.
We were in hysterics until he sat back down on the chair and asked, “So, how are we going to fix this?”
“Eh, just shave it.”
Pops’ head turned very slowly towards me and there was a slight look of impatience that appeared on his face and then it was gone. “That’s the only option we have, so shave it,” he said and my mouth molded itself into a smile. Finally, I got what I wanted. I happily switched the clippers on and began to eliminate the rest of his locks.
After a few minutes, he was bald, well, not completely. He had, maybe, an eighth of an inch of his gray hair remaining. As he looked in the mirror, I did notice a bit of a dip in the middle of the top of his head, but I refrained from saying anything purely for the fact I didn’t want to feel the wrath of his 30 second evil stare again.
The doorbell rang, “Oh goodie, Molly is here. She was probably looking through the window watching us, waiting until we were done,” I mumbled under my breath.
Pops took off the towel that shielded his clothing and began wiping off the back of his neck, as I walked down the hall to open the front door and greet his guest.
“Eleanora! Hello, sweetie. How are you? Where is your Grandfather?” she said without giving me a chance to respond or invite her in, but that didn’t stop her because she was already half way up the steps going towards his room. She was wearing a dress whose color almost matched the pukey colored paint on the dresser. She’s a mousy looking older lady with shoulder length gray wavy hair that is never out of place, big ears, a pointy face, skinny, but a huge head. Seriously, she looks like a bobble-headed mouse. I’m not the biggest fan of hers, but I believe the feeling is mutual. Pops appeared beside me at the front door all ready to go and looking for Molly with a quizzical look on his face. When he looked at me about to ask where she is, I just shrugged my shoulders and pointed upward.
“James? James? Where are you, honey?” Molly rang out while she walked throughout the upstairs of the house.
She walked back to the landing and without looking downward reached for the doorknob that was nearest the steps, “Excuse me, that’s my room!” I yelled.
“Molly, I’m by the door,” Pops said as he looked at me. “Don’t start,” he uttered when he saw I was about to say something about Molly.
We heard her, more so the clanking of her heels on the hardwood stairs, make her way back towards where we were standing.
“Oh, there you…,” and then she spied his new do, “OH MY GOD! What did you do to your hair?”
“We had a little mishap while cutting my hair,” he replied as he elbowed me in the shoulder.
“Hey, it wasn’t all my fault. I told him he can’t rush perfection and he did.”
Molly gave me a smug look. I swear this lady has an underlying hatred towards me. “Well, next time, honey, I’ll just do it for you,” she said and came up to Pops and kissed him on the cheek and fixed the collar of his shirt.
“Um, no. I have been doing it since I was 10, so I’ll continue to do it, thank you.”
A snotty look, yet again, exuded from her face, “Well, we will see, I guess.”
Pops saw my face fill with anger, my eyes bug out and my mouth open to begin to say my retort, but he beat me to the punch, “I think Nora has it covered, Mol. You ready to go?”
“Oh, yes, Darling. Let’s go,” she responded and Pops gave me a wink as they made their way out the door.
“You guys have a good one,” I said as I closed the door behind them and mumbled, “Hopefully, he will make it back in one piece.”
I went back up the stairs, threw off my hoodie and slippers and jumped back into bed, landing into almost the exact same spot and position that I was in before Pops interrupted. My mind was erased of everything that had just happened, me screwing up Pops hair and Molly being Molly. Much like my position in bed, my thought process was back to where it was. Engulfed in wonderment of why I’m alive and well and the hideous orange puke paint that reminded me of Molly’s dress.
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