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2004-07-23 - 6:43 p.m.

Itís raining again, today. Iíve taken so many walks in the rain these past weeks I feel like Iím John Cusack in a romantic comedy. (Look at those movies. That man gets so much as a stubbed toe and he ends up wandering through a storm. I know many a woman with a jones for Mr. Cusack, so let me ask. Do you guys just like him wet?)

Growing up in New England, a sudden downpour never surprised me. Neither, for that matter, did a weeklong torrent, but in this town where walking thirty blocks a day is nearly a requirement, the rain becomes event worthy. The umbrella is as necessary to city life as a wallet, purse, or cell phone.

Most have the standard crap black ones you buy on the corner in a moment of desperation for three fifty. But there are those who have gone off and invested in their gilded umbrella of wonder: the paisley curtain with oak handle, and all steel workings. To go so far as to have it monogrammed is rare, but occasionally you can see three initials circling the grip.

Usually, an umbrella has about a three foot diameter, but apparently, some canít fit their girth under such a slim barrier, or else, theyíve decided they need at least three feet of personal space on all sides while walking down the sidewalk, so youíll see a few gallivanting down the avenues with what looks like the awning off a cafť table.

My favorite remains the tulip-dip style, an umbrella whose clear petals dip down covering its owners face and neck. With hair immaculate they strut, looking like theyíve shoved their head into a salon blow dryer or the cones of silence from Get Smart.

Mine...Itís hanging off my window frame in my apartment. Rarely do I take a good look outside, or listen to the weather before I rush out of the door in the morning; so second showers arenít a rare experience. Coming home one night, my head dipped down, shielding my eyes from the storm raging overhead, I found the broken handle of a parasol laying by the stairs in the subway, the fabric torn clean off. I stopped over the lonely broken down device, giving it a good once over, before taking it up and flipping it over my shoulder. I walked all the way home like that.

Iím in no way a proponent of astrology, but, coming in out of the rain to a pizza parlor, hearing the strains of Age of Aquarius, the two fish that apparently have sway over my fate swam to the front of my mind. I donít know if the element youíre born under precludes some affinity to that element, but I donít mind the rain, the water, whatever itís form. When the thunder builds and the lightning begins stabbing at the horizon, Iím sure to be found by an open window frame. So long as I know a change of clothes isnít too far away, I donít mind a round of puddle jumping. (Eight hours in damp underwear howeverÖnever a rollicking good time.)

Maybe thatís why I jumped last weekend. I was too drunk to remember how I came to the shore, or think about the eight foot drop off from the landing to the river, or consider the fact that swimming out to someone elseís boat at five in the morning was probably illegal and veering towards the insane.

All the fuzziness rambling through my brain washed right off the minute I was immersed in that green viscous river water. Underneath, the mild chill of the water crawled and curled over my skin, moving with slow purpose.

I never made it out to the boat I swam for. The tide found me, and hurled me down stream. I panicked and fought it for a moment, but there was no chance I was going to make headway with my boots weighing down my stroke. Thirty feet down, I spotted another boat moored by the shore. I planted myself in position and managed to nab the anchor line before I passed, wrapping it around my arm and then my leg, hanging on tight as the water lapped at my back.

With my eyes closed, I waited for my breath to come back, inhaling each time the water swayed me out, exhaling when it pulled me back. The water seemed to be circling my legs as it rushed by. It spiraled around me, holding me up while it tugged at me to let go. Inhale. Exhale.

I could hear her calling from the shore. I didn't open my eyes.

ďIím fine.Ē

(Closing note: Wordís spelling suggestion for Cusack: Cossack.)

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