It was a dark and stormy night as I stepped into the pouring rain, pouring like bullets driving into my skull, not the hard, bony part of your skull, for if it had been this, at least the pain would have been clear, tangible, plangent; but the soft, vulnerable part, the part that you don't like to think about because it reminds you of how vulnerable you really are; how if someone shakes you up and down too much, your brain might get jostled and refuse to function in its present coherent manner. And maybe this is just the problem. You're being jostled by the world, everything going up and down, and you have no control over quite what your brain is doing or where it is going. But at least, you think, you don't have baby eczema anymore. It was then that I looked up and saw the streetlight. It was green, like rosebuds in the first days of spring, like grass glistening in the morning dew, but perhaps a shade darker. But you knew that in only seconds it would sicken to a jaundiced yellow, and then to red, and it was the deep, bloody, inevitable red of which I was afraid, afraid of what that moment might bring, that moment that is repeated a thousand times every day in everyone's life, but which somehow maintains a bit of mystery about it, an elusiveness that screams, "Listen!" like one of your grade school teachers trying to tell you something you didn't want to know, that you feared to know, that you would be tested on. Only it wasn't like that. Because there was no teacher who would add a bit of humanity, security, to the situation. Only the traffic light. Cold, unfeeling, yellow. God, it was yellow! And I watched the traffic stop. It was then that I opened my umbrella. It opened with a "whoosh!", a passionate yet apathetic "whoosh," as if it were expressing all the frustration of my life in a single burst of sound and air, signifying everything, yet nothing. Like the poems you write as a youth, which at first seem eloquent and profound yet upon further examination reveal only that you do not understand yourself, that you have not yet fully grasped the English, the language, despite how you throw around metaphors and similes as if they showed some kind of nonchalant brilliance, a native knowledge of how the world works. Thus protected from the torrent of aquatic bullets, I turned my attention to the cars which were stopping slowly, reluctantly, aggravated by the interference of the traffic control. I looked at the people inside the cars, feeling as if I, too, were inside their automobiles, and I could feel the rich texture, hideous opulence, of the leather interiors. But I knew that under that leather was the vulgar metal, the coarse inner workings, the putrid gasoline without which the leather would be only guilty, shameful, dead cow. Roadkill. But somehow I knew that I wanted to be sitting on that leather, no matter what shame enshrouded it, as if it were all of humanity, and despite the sins of humanity, despite the wretchedness of how it had become, what it had become, I retained a burning desire to be a part of it. Like a corpulent child tormented by its peers yet still wanting to be one of them, to understand them, to even love them, love as if they were yet another extension of his rotund self, perhaps an arm, or a leg, or maybe something more important, something internal, a spleen, or more precisely a kidney, for we each have two of them. The rain began to seep through the pores of my umbrella, blurring the self-promoting emblem emblazoned on the surface, to work its way through the crevices of my protective shield back to me, back to my soft skull, becoming once again dull bullets. But this time, with the added cruelty that comes after moments of peace, like the first small shoots of pain following the medication that dilutes the ache of having your teeth pulled out of your mouth, wrenched out of a protective place where they lived in harmony with others like them, without fear of disturbance, suddenly being violated. And just like that, I was torn away from my little place of refuge under the umbrella as with a sharp whipping of the wind my umbrella broke, not into pieces, but inverting itself, leaving a useless corpse which could only remind me of the shelter which I had once taken for granted. But only now did I truly see the umbrella. I saw the never-ending intricacies of the fractal that once was my umbrella, the surface smoothly grooved by mechanical stitches, stitches which not so many years ago would have been sewn lovingly by some elderly women in a brown cotton dress, complete with cream colored apron and handspun lace, or perhaps by her young daughter, just learning how to stitch an umbrella, and with thoughts of childish fancy more abundant in her brain than thoughts of my umbrella; and I saw the spiderlike spokes, crippled by the wind in a way few humans can understand. The drivers soon became impatient with the light which burned endlessly yellow with unnatural fire. The engines of the luxurious and ironically named horseless carriages revved, not understanding the light's unwavering indecisiveness, wanting to push onward or at least to stop, their windshield wipers beating mechanically in an attempt to fend off the deluge of rain which my umbrella simply could not stand up to. And I felt an incomparable loss as I realized, with a certainty I'd never known before, that the traffic light was broken.
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