Rain Shadow


Ran rolled the small amount of water around in her flask. What if she were to chug the whole thing down, right now, and feel refreshed, only to feel greater thirst later? Instead, she took the smallest of sips. Ran was lost.

It was only supposed to be a two-hour hike to Riverside, but it seemed like her navigation skills were not what they used to be. Using the position of the sun, she had continued to journey in what she had hoped was the direction of Riverside, but the wooden shacks at the edge of town had never materialized.

She slung the flask back over her tingling shoulders. The sun could mummify her skin.

She tried not to think about the pain in her feet. Sharp burning has subsided into an ongoing ache, that was beginning to give way to numbness.

If only she could sit down, like the Buddha, cross-legged in the sand, and dream herself back to where she wanted to be, back to New York City, back to the stuffy, creaky sitting room of her old girlfriend, Karen. She could see Karen sitting in the splotchy red-violet armchair, watching the news on an old set. What wouldn’t Ran give for Karen’s rickety, old Jeep? She would go back to New York, after a short cruise, in the Caribbean.

The orange desert dwarfed her. It was a slow rolling plain, ringed by distant crags. Above, various black-winged birds screeched, wheeling in the white sunlight. They hung like stationary planetary mobiles, in a quivering blue sky that was painful to look at.

The night would be cold and brittle. She could dig for water then. Right now, she could find some shade and rest in it. But only shrubs sat along the orange expanse. Rocky outcroppings were far away and off in the direction she would be going.

It was a trade-off: take some time to rest or perhaps even stay there, under a cliff, or in a cave, until someone came by, or use what little, time, water and nutrient bars she had left to keep trekking in the direction of where she was supposed to be. Ran didn’t recognize any landmarks. She could be travelling deeper into this desert, deep down in the heart of the United States.

Four days ago, she had been to the sea. Ran had come here from the West Coast, from her surf shop in Los Angeles. Visiting San Bernardino had been a holiday. It was strange how the simplest of things could get so radically overturned, spun in the wrong direction. Ran tried not to let things get her down. She cleared her mind; it was a blank plaster wall, as flat as the land in front of her churning feet.

She puffed out her cheeks and exhaled slowly. Every time she did that, the pain moved farther away, but every time it was pushed back, it would flow back from where it had receded, like ocean waves.

She moved as fast as she dared, hobbling on her throbbing feet. Why couldn’t she move any faster? She had forgotten her camera in the desert.


The World City

Do Not shake the Martini

Rainwater ran down the streets and pooled around the gutter. Kaan watched the downpour from the window of the bar and restaurant. The glass case of an edifice hung in the air, suspended a stone’s throw from Grand Central. The cars moved through the clotted street, thronging Midtown.

Kaan sipped her martini, stirred, not shaken. She sat in her usual black leather biker jacket, paired with ripped, distressed jeans. On her feet, she wore sandals.

Another woman, in a knee-length, pink chiffon dress, plopped down at the bar and ordered a vodka and cranberry juice. She swirled her drink with the cocktail straw. As she conversed with the bartender, her wavy chestnut-brown curls bounced with every exclamation of her bubbly personality.

The first drink was gone in no time, and the mystery woman ordered one more, again vodka, this time with lemonade. But instead of remaining on her stool, she now walked over to Kaan, drink in hand, heels echoing on the floor.

“Barefoot beatnik type?” she said, “Are you a punk rocker?”

Bleary-eyed, Kaan turned to her, “No. Who are you?”

The woman smiled, “I can see that you’re not on your first martini.”

Kaan’s eyes narrowed, “Did you escape from a debutante ball?”

“No,” she said, inclining her head, “What are you escaping from?”

Kaan turned away and looked back out the window.

Mystery woman let the stool spin until she was facing backward, elbows reclining on the glass table, “You don’t get out much, do you?”

Kaan glanced at her but said nothing.

“Where are you from?” the woman asked.

“Maine,” Kaan said, still looking out at the inclement weather.



The woman turned back around to face the same direction as Kaan, “You’re from here, aren’t you?”

Kaan nodded, taking a sip of her martini.

The woman in pink leaned over the table, to get a better look at Kaan’s face, “I live in Williamsburg, just a quick jaunt across the river.”

“Have a nice jaunt,” Kaan said, not moving.

“Be nice,” the woman cooed, “and I just might let you come along too.”

Kaan looked into her eyes, bright and sparkling, like a cat’s, “I just got done with a bad breakup.”

“How soon is ‘just got done,’?”

Kaan looked around for the waiter, “You know, maybe I should go.”

This new person cocked her head to the side, “Don’t be like that. C’mon, let me buy you a drink.”

“I think I’m far enough along already,” Kaan grumbled.

“Alright, well at least a club soda. My name is Beth, by the way,” she proffered her manicured hand to shake, a female handshake, with the hand descending from above, not extended from the side.

Kaan shook her hand, “My name is Kaan.”

“What a strange name,” Beth said, “Did you land here from Krypton?”

“Might as well have,” Kaan said, finishing her martini. She caught the olive with her teeth.

Outside, commuters whisked by silently. Somewhere, out there, Kaan thought, was Aspen, black heels clicking against the wet pavement.

“I want to say you’re one of the most interesting people I have ever met,” Beth said, as the club soda arrived.

“I wish I could say I believed you,” Kaan said, angling her stool to face her.

“I wish I could say I loved you, too,” Beth smiled, sipping her new drink.

Kaan raised her eyebrows, “You’re being awfully nice to me.”

“I’m a college friend of Ran’s,” Beth said. She ate the cherry in the cocktail.

“Oh, I see,” Kaan rubbed the back of her neck.

“‘Oh, I see’ indeed,” Beth grinned, leaning backward on the stool, re-crossing her legs.

“Well, I think you’re very nice,” Kaan said, putting the drink down, “but I don’t think I can be that person for you.”

Beth leaned back forward, soft dress crinkling, “You’re still beating yourself up, aren’t you?”

“How could I not?” Kaan shrugged.

Beth asked for a pen from a nearby waiter, and wrote her number on a cocktail napkin, “I’ll take a rain check Kaan. The night is still young after all.”

“Is it now?” Kaan smirked, taking the napkin.

“Don’t brood too hard,” Beth said, brushing Kaan’s hand with her own. She slinked off amid the bar, toward the hotel elevators.

Kaan considered the cell phone number, before looking back out at the congested street.




Ravel – Pavane pour une infante défunte, for piano (or orchestra)

Chopin – Prelude for piano No. 15 in D flat major (‘Raindrop’) Op. 28/15, B. 107/10

Saint-Saens – Samson et Dalila, “Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix”