I lie in the darkness. Holding my breath. Listening. “It’s quiet tonight” I think. I can hear a dark bark once or twice somewhere across the valley. John is fast asleep. His breathing is deep and loud but not quite a snore. I’m glad. I can never get to sleep once he starts snoring. My eyes are slowly adjusting to the darkness. I can just make out my dressing gown on the back of the door. A pale blue drape of fuzzy cloth. The outline of the window behind the navy curtains comes into focus. “I wonder what woke me up?”.
I’m not sure how long I’ve been lying there. Time passes differently at night. I can feel the ache in my back. An old injury that will always be mildly painful. mostly it prevents me from lifting heaving things which isn’t so bad. For some reason it’s aching tonight though. I roll onto my side disentangling my feet from the duvet and trying not to disturb the cat. The duvet is scrunched up next to me. I guess it got too hot. I punch and fluff the pillow trying to mould it into a shape other than flat. It’s no use.
Today has been the first of hopefully many hot summer days. The thick old brick walls have absorbed all of that summer sun and are warm to the touch. Even now at whatever time it is. The bedroom window are wide open but it’s no use. There’s no breeze. I get up quietly and go through to the kitchen for a glass of water. By the orange glow of the security lights erected over the township in another era, I can see the clouds. Thick and black and teasing. I wonder if the rain will come. Or if we’ll get a few drops before it moves on. I stand staring out the window for a while sipping my water. By the time I climb back into bed the sheets have cooled a little. I lie quietly hoping for sleep.
Then I hear it. A very low rumble. So far away I’m not sure if I really did hear it. I stare into the darkness towards the patch on the ceiling where I know there’s a water stain. Another rumble a bit louder and a dull flash of lightning a long way off. It’s getting closer. My heart quickens. Thunderstorms are unusual here. We mostly get frontal rain. Fine drizzle the moves up from Cape Town. It sets in for days on end. Leaving only when everything and everyone is damp, cold and grumpy. Thunderstorms are treasured events to me. They remind me of growing up in Zimbabwe where the 4pm thunderstorm was a daily occurrence in summer. A daily respite from the heat of the day, cooling the air enough to make sitting on the verandah a pleasant way to pass the evening.
The rumbles and flashes come closer and closer. A slight breeze stirs the curtains letting in the smell that comes before the rain. A damp smell of hope and cool relief. A subtle smell compared to the warm hot aromas that follow a rainstorm. Rarer too. I close my eyes and let me mind wander around the garden and rooms of my childhood. Remembering the sound of rain on our roof at home. The one spectacular lightning storm we watch dancing over the Matusadona. The storm in Durban that one holiday that blew out all the windows in one of the fancy beach front hotels. My sister and I running around in the rain. Throwing out plastic bath boats into the sheet of water flowing across the lawn. Warm rain followed by dry fluffy towels.
The softest of plinks breaks off my wandering mind. “Was that a raindrop?” There’s an unbearable pause before another plink on the corrugated roof. And another . and a few more in quick succession plink plink plink. Soon I can’t distinguish between the individual drops. The rain beats a metallic refrain on the roof with thunder rumbles and lightning flashes in perfect counterpoint. I can hear the water running in the gutters. Flowing down the spouts. Gushing across the stones that breaks its erosive power. Rain sounds.
I lie there quietly. Smiling at the sounds and the memories and soon; I am asleep.