Seeing the giant-sized droplets streaming down the panes, he opened the window and gazed at the backyard. The squirrels that were hopping on the green grass just a little while ago were not to be seen. They must have retreated to some safe shelter to stay dry. He let his thoughts wander a million miles away as he enjoyed the first rains of the season, feeling refreshed.
The rains mesmerized him; he had a strange fascination for them, for they always reminded him of her. The first glimpse he had was on that sultry summer afternoon when she had returned from school, all in a mess in the downpour. He couldn’t erase that picture of her, drenched in the afternoon showers, satchel on back, her hair ruffled all across her face.
Every brief encounter that he had made him look forward to the next. Her innocence, her immaturity, her tantrums, her cravings for cassata and Swiss chocolate – all warmly bundled up in a small package – made her so lovable. The messiness he would see in her attire would sometimes annoy him. He wished he could groom her. Could he do a second Pygmalion? He at times questioned himself.
After a few months, she had disappeared like a sudden gust of wind, leaving no trace. That was close to a decade ago. He had traversed many miles since then, faced the quotidian actualities of life, and experienced its successes and failures. He was now trotting halfway across the globe, away from home. He knew that even years later, among a thousand faces, he would not misidentify those dimples, the impish look on that face.
He had joined in as a faculty member. It was a small university town. Lectures, seminars, and a bunch of doctoral students that were complete strangers: that would be his routine for the next several years. It didn’t look promising to him at all. The days ahead looked hazy, yet he wondered why he was so optimistic that he would find what he was looking for. In the corner of his heart, he believed there was hope somewhere.
Like they usually do, the rains eased the warm temperatures and cooled the town. He felt there was something special about the summer showers this year. There was hope ringing in his mind that the rains would bring to him a fresh burst of life, renew his confidence, and invest a new meaning in that mundane existence of his. Once again, he thought of her. The face had been imprinted forever in the paradise of his memories. It’s a small world after all! Would he perhaps meet her sometime, somewhere?
It was the first day of the semester. He hustled into the classroom late as usual. Punctuality had never been his virtue. He delivered his lecture and at the end of the class asked the students to sign up to write their papers on plays by Shaw and Shakespeare. They crowded around his table as he hurriedly jotted down their selections without lifting his head.
“What play have you selected?” he asked the last one in the group. “Pygmalion,” replied a voice. He looked up. He missed a heartbeat. It was the face he had longed to see for so long.
“Should I come for a review tomorrow during your office hours?” she asked. “You certainly will,” he replied.
He drove back home, wondering whether he would need to enact the Pygmalion story. They had both moved on so much since then. The days ahead would tell. The radio in his car, tuned on to the FM channel, played one of Dan Fogelberg’s numbers. He hummed along his favorite tune: “Listen to the Rhythm of the Falling Rain”.