I don’t remember being afraid of thunderstorms when I was small. Instead, my family would often gather on the front porch to watch them, like we were watching a movie. Dad pointed out to me that one sure sign of rain was if the leaves on trees flipped over, and to this day if I see a tree with the pale dusky undersides of the leaves all showing, I tend to hurry home and shut the windows. Summer storms still fascinate me – the swirling clouds overhead preceding them, the rising winds, the growing sense and tension that something’s gonna happen, and then finally the first clap of thunder and the burst of rain, the wind coming in gusts, rain ebbing and flowing and coming in waves, counting the seconds after a lightning flash to gauge its distance. A couple times I’ve been very near a spot where the lightning hit, the crack of thunder coming right overhead and making me jump; once while in Chicago, I saw a lightning bolt hit the Sears Tower during a storm and stood there gaping for a good ten seconds after, not noticing I was getting drenched by rain.
Just this moment in New York, there’s a storm that’s broken out; it was building through most of the afternoon since noon, and the first lightning finally crashed and broke at 2. The blinds were drawn on the window near my desk, and I couldn’t resist – I had to pull the blinds up, and stood by the window a moment, peering out onto the city; down to the street at the people running to get out of the storm (whether they had umbrellas or not); then up at the sky to watch the clouds lit by lighting, watching them thin and pale out as the storm shed its strength.
But then I glanced at the building across the street and laughed – because I saw people huddled in three different windows across the street, all of them with their faces pressed against the glass, all of them doing exactly the same thing.
We all watched the storm a few moments, and then gradually all drifted back to work.