Adella wondered if it was getting bad again. She had read a poem recently that called identity a “wet shirt” you had to pull over your head every morning. Yesterday, it rained in New York. She lost her umbrella in a café. After walking home, she peeled off her wet clothes slowly, and shivered. Her skin felt cold. Adella was tired. So tired. They say that the first thing you should check is the fundamentals: are you sleeping regularly and enough? Are you having solid, healthy meals three times a day? Are you moving? Instead, Adella thought about the last time she had hugged someone.
On Friday, Adella went to get ramen with Usha, her roommate. The sun was out and they talked about wanting it to stay, to wipe the city clean and keep them warm enough to forget about layering. On the way to the restaurant, they passed Washington Square and decided to weave through the park to look at the pinkening sky and to feel people around them, relaxed and drunk on good weather. Adella thought it could be contagious. She could catch a good mood, cup it in her palms like a firefly, and make it stay. She wanted it to congest her lungs, stuff up her breathing, dwarf her thoughts like the pain of a migraine. Adella asked the spring to consume her.
They stopped at a booth by the fountain where you could read handwritten stories about strangers, talking about their lives in New York City. Over an old white lady’s shoulder , Adella read about someone’s rape. On the next sheet, someone had written that they were about to move to Paris for a girl. He didn’t even speak French but she was ecstatic, and “that’s all there is.”
Behind the booth, a couple was sitting on the ground playing music. They looked at each other often, smiling intermittently, their heads softly nodding to the beat. A large circular case lay open in front of them, with a shallow pool of coins at the bottom. Adella broke from the crowd and walked over to them. She secretly loved steel pan music. It sounded like rain, like light itself was raining, falling in cascading, polyrhythmic drops. It made Adella want to be in love. She was a little bit in love already, but being in love, as many know, is not enough on its own, like making a stew with only one ingredient.
The musician couple grinned at the crowd, and the man yelled:
“We’re just trying to pay for our brunch tomorrow!”
His hand broke from the melody to point towards the case with money.
“We’re not homeless or anything. Just trying to enjoy ourselves!”
Their palms fell gently on the pans, and Adella’s face craned up to look at the last gaps of light between the leaves, before night came.
There is a French film called Blue is the Warmest Color where the protagonist experiences a coup de foudre, a lightning bolt or love at first sight, on the street, while steel pans play in the background. As the two girls cross the street and look at each other, the rain of light from the drums pitches upwards, falling heavier but the sounds themselves thinning into smaller pinpricks. The sun is out. In an earlier scene of the movie, the protagonist sits in a French literature class. The professor asks the students, when you see someone, in a moment of coup de foudre, is there something less or more in your heart? Have you gained something or have you lost something? Adella thought about this question a lot. She had seen the film several times now.
The next day it rained again in New York, an irritating, indecisive drizzle. In her room, Adella found another poem on her Twitter feed. It talked about a study where baby monkeys “were given a choice/between a wire mother with milk/& a wool mother with none” and in the end, they chose “to starve & hold the soft body.” Adella took off her clothes, dampened, and waited for her limbs to warm up.
Image from the film “Blue is the Warmest Color”, dir. by Abdellatif Kechiche