The puddles that formed in my husband and I’s backyard after a rain smelled different than the ones outside Sarah’s. I loved the way it felt to be drenched standing in front of her downtown one-bedroom, flirting with the rapid waters of brown arroyos, angry that they must twist and turn through oil slick streets with no storm drains to speak of.
The gathering piles of rainwater pulled cars along like paper boats in a stream, but we were women barefoot on the pavement that was still warm from the noonday sun. It was filled with garbage and debris, stinking like sulfur. The tufts of grass in the muddy park felt good on my feet. My toes were black as grackle feathers crowing in the howling wind—letting thunder through my ears and head and sleeping on a lightning bed—
Sarah’s home smelled like palo santo and sweetgrass, burning, and chaotic sweet, she would
offer me chocolates that she made with delicate petals and green tea. I loved the way we laid in her backyard, backs flush against smooth, warm tile, mouths wide to catch
Marveling at how little the drops fell between our teeth. How improbable it would be to drink—
How improbable to consume, but how easy to be swept away
each time the mountain bleeds—
No. My husband and I’s first real house two miles away had the same carpet from 1962 that ran through every room in the house except the kitchen and the bathroom. There, the carpet gave way to linoleum that thinly coated concrete. When we toured the place, there was barely any linoleum left, just patches of plastic laid haphazardly over grainy grey. It felt coarse, both hot and cool against my bare feet.
Outside, the house had a backyard slathered with tile, dirt, and even more concrete. Grey, heat-holding concrete. I was poked, prodded, cut by pebbles and shattered glass from the tiny casita that was slowly imploding on the edge of our concrete yard. I pulled cactus spines and bee stingers from my soles and walked over dried chunks of charcoal. Dog hair, must, creosote, salt-water skin. These are the smells that the rain brought in.
Feet like ribbons, oil-slicked, dirt-caked,
Drenched; head to my husband’s chest, streaks of hot white paint streaked overhead. I breathed in musk and his Pennsylvania dust, pulled flannel to my skin
To skin drenched in