Hot Rain | Sylvan Lebrun
Updated: Dec 20, 2019
Did Noah feel just as we do now? When the water began to pool, rising past his ankles, until there was nowhere to go to escape the sea? Yet he was lucky, to face it in a cleaner age. Here the apartment reeks of mildew, sugar, and gasoline. I keep the windows open all day and all night, hoping the sparse gusts of wind will clear the smell away. Darya complains that I’m letting in the mosquitoes. They collect on the walls, growing fat with our blood as the temperature outside steadily climbs. We count the bites together and scratch our legs raw at night, wake up with red caked underneath our fingernails.
It was only six days ago that the water reached our floor — we held it off for a while by stuffing the door crack with wax, which melted one night as we slept. Enough has flooded in to soak the shoes kept by the door, seep into the bottom drawer of the dresser. Darya measured again this morning, pants rolled above her knees as she crouched down with a dented ruler. Told me it’s past the four-inch mark, another week and we’ll have to move, won’t we? Other people’s things flow in and out whenever we open the front door, sports magazines with the ink smudged, plastic bags, rusted forks and earring backs. Yesterday, a tiny yellow and black songbird washed up dead in the hallway, spindly legs angled towards the ceiling lights. The pet of the dark-eyed and withered Ukrainian woman in 206, who allowed it to fly freely around her apartment.
The phone disconnected at around the same time that the power went off, wires corroding, sparks then fire in the fuse box downstairs. Static even before that, when my father called: pleading me with his lips too close to the receiver to repent for what we’ve done, all of us, spitting in the face of god. Confess and be spared, I tell him back. I know I stand here with my conscience clean.
I walk up to the roof three times a day and it helps me to, for a moment, forget it. I never realized that we lived on an island until this. I lie on my back beside the now-silent beige generator, where it is dry and hot and I can’t see the rivers that pour into the streets. Clouds overhead darker than the ones I grew up staring into, asphalt and tar, air that goes bitter into the lungs. It’s easier to pretend we are sinking instead of being met by the sea.
Darya’s hands shake during dinner tonight. The only sign she is thinking about death as she talks about long-past vacations or characters from television shows, words too quick and punctuated with forced laughter. Nauseous from the humidity, we pass each other damp pieces of bread and cans of tuna, sirens howling outside. When her stories peter out, she laces her fingers in front of her and dips her head towards her chest, silent. I watch her eyes shut, as if she were about to drift off into sleep. It is then that I decide. Two by two, resting untouched above the waves — it has to be us and no one else. Sending no oil in or out of the earth, killing no songbirds and piloting no jets, she and I are pure. Darya says prayers for us every time the water rises, she deserves to feel winters again. In the dull glow of our half-melted candles, she is the Virgin Mary and Hecate, Kali and Bette Davis, ringed in light, adorned in roses and gold, last to die. There must be a moored boat that buzzes with life, just outside the window or down the street. Someone has chosen both of us for salvation, I reach across the table to hold her hand and tell her. I swear, I swear we’ll survive this.
Sylvan Lebrun is a student living in Tokyo, Japan. Her work has been previously published in Shirley Magazine, The Hunger, Construction, and Up the Staircase Quarterly, among others. She loves walks in the mountains and dead languages. Twitter: @sylvanlebrun