I’ve controlled the weather on more than one occasion. Or I guess I should say, my brother did.
The first time was a couple weeks after he died. I had just returned to college, leaving behind my hometown and mourning family, thrust back into the hazy life of a student. I returned much different than I left. But I attempted to reengage with the life that I left behind a few weeks prior.
I sat in my bedroom straightening my hair, getting ready for my first night out since my return. My door was shut, muffling the laughter of my roommates downstairs. I stared straight ahead at my bare wall, my hands going through the familiar motions.
Ever since the day I learned he died, I felt physically in pain. There was a constant sensation of heavy stones pressing down on my chest.
I didn’t think it was possible, but my heart was actually hurting. It felt like I was experiencing cardiac arrest. I was always waiting for the moment I’d go unconscious, but it never came. Instead, I had to accept the unceasing pressure. It was a constant reminder that my heart would never be whole again. Missing someone who you know you’ll never see again is the most devastating thing in the world. It literally makes you short of breath.
I stared at a picture of my brother sitting on my side table, from when he was about 5 years old. He wasn’t smiling, just looking somberly into the lens, his young eyes filled with quiet understanding. Funny, I thought to myself, how I never considered having a picture of him in my room. But now that he was gone, I wanted his face framed everywhere, covering my tabletops and walls. I gazed back into his eyes, my heart wrenching again like a clogged artery.
I had three years left of college. I was three hours away from home. I was living with three people I barely knew. But I was going to force myself to make it through, just like I’d have to force myself to make it through every single day of the rest of my life.
“Kelly!” I heard one of my roommates call, his voice echoing up the stairs. “Are you ready? We’re gonna go soon.”
I sighed before clicking my straightener off. “Coming!” I yelled back. I downed the last of my beer, struggling through the warm foam but determined to numb myself as fast as possible.
I passed through the kitchen where my male roommates were standing, finishing their own beers and loading up backpacks with the rest. I passed them, as quiet and vacant as a ghost, and went to stand outside in the darkness.
It was when I shut the door behind me that I realized it was raining. I sighed again. We were about to walk about 10 minutes to a party. I didn’t have a rain coat. For once my naturally frizzy, wavy hair was tamed. But with the rain, it wouldn’t last long. I stood under our awning with my arms folded, blinking back tears of frustration.
“Really??” I heard myself say out loud. “Really? You have to let it rain?” I stopped, suddenly aware that I was addressing my brother. And it actually felt good. Not just good; it felt like a relief. Some of the pressure subtly subsided.
“I straightened my hair ya know,” I said aloud. “Don’t you know how long that takes??” Silence. “Now it’s going to get ruined. Why did you have to let it rain?” I peeked out from under the awning, up into the night sky. Fat droplets immediately soaked my cheeks. “Can’t you make it stop? Please? My hair will get ruined, Colin.” I choked on his name. But as silly as it sounded, I got to be a whiny sister again. I finally turned and walked back inside to check on my roommates’ progress. They got quiet, all giving me a weak smile before busying themselves with their backpacks.
We had only lived together for a little over a month so far. I only knew one of them well. The other two, despite our blossoming friendship, were still strangers. Ultimately, they didn’t know how to act around me. They didn’t know if they could laugh or joke with me there. They didn’t know what would trigger my grief. None of them had sisters; I was the first female any of them lived with aside from their mothers. And now I was in mourning. They were clueless. What do you say to someone you hardly know, who just experienced a tragedy? Someone who left as an upbeat, seemingly whole person, but returned broken and bitter? I faked a smile, determined to make them comfortable. “Are you guys ready? It’s raining out. Might want to grab something with a hood.”
We all finally trailed outside. I was last, locking the door behind me. When I stepped out from under the awning, I looked back up. My mouth slowly began to open. I looked over at my roommates standing on the driveway waiting for me, pulling the hoods down off their heads. I started to say something but didn’t. I walked out even further, looked up. No rain, no clouds. The sky was completely clear. My roommates didn’t notice my bewilderment; they began to walk down our poorly lit street. I kept blinking, kept glancing up. I didn’t know how to explain what happened. It would’ve sounded crazy; they wouldn’t believe Colin had anything to do with it. But I trailed behind them as they walked, and whispered with a grin, “Thank you.”
The next time was the day of my sister’s wedding. As excited as I was, the day felt bittersweet. My sister was devastated that one of the most important people in her life would not be able to see her walk down the aisle.
Our hearts ached with how much we wanted him to be there.
All that week leading up to the big day, meteorologists were promising rain. The chances of precipitation were about 95%, right up to the day before. The morning of, I opened the curtains of my hotel room to see an ominous gray sky. It was cold and wet outside. Although my sister was trying to remain positive, optimistic, saying that the weather didn’t matter, I knew she was heartbroken. She had found the most perfect spot for her ceremony outside. We had places picked out to take pictures, to do a first reveal with her husband-to-be. And now, the vision she had over the past two years was crumbling in front of her. Even though the reception was indoors, her dream wedding was going to be ruined.
My sister didn’t deserve this double-whammy: first my brother not being there, now the weather not cooperating. I sat in my hotel room and cried for her, and for my brother, because I missed him and wanted him to be there to fix it all.
“Please don’t let it rain,” I wept aloud. “You will still be here with us today. We are still involving you. You don’t have to make it rain to show us that you’re here.” I kept talking to him, begging over and over to hold back the weather until after the ceremony. I even threatened him a few times. “Don’t be an asshole, Colin. Don’t do this to her. Don’t let this happen.”
But as we were all getting ready, random droplets would fall out of the sky. It was as if he was teasing us. It reminded me of when we used to run through our sprinkler outside, and he would sneak to the end of the hose and twist it into a knot so the water would stop. And then he would unexpectedly let it loose again, the water spraying me in the face. I shook my head, staring outside, whispering to him. “Please. At least for the ceremony. Let us just get through the ceremony without any rain. Do it for her.”
The time came. Dark gray clouds loomed over us. The threat of rain was palpable. You could see it in the sky, feel it in the air. The ground was still slightly damp from the drops that escaped earlier. But we braved it, each member of the bridal party walking down the aisle and taking their place at the end.
I stood up front next to my sister, who was radiant with relief. I looked out at the sea of her guests, observing the umbrellas leaning against chairs; raincoats hanging on the backs. Everyone was prepared, yet baffled that the predicted weather wasn’t occurring.
As the officiant began to speak, I glanced up at the sky and smiled. My personal weatherman.