the first desert rain

Something happened this week that I never expected.

It rained.

The day had been just like any other — unbearably hot. I had woken up early that morning to go on a walk with my sitemate before our town stirred from its sleep and the sun’s blazing rays forced us inside. I spent the rest of the day reading Catch-22 and planning a lesson, watching as sweat inevitably rolled off of my face and onto the page I was working on.

“It’s only May,” I told myself repeatedly. “It’s not even that hot yet,” I said non-convincingly, but trying to steel my body for the continued temperature hikes in the months to come.

In the two years the former Peace Corps Volunteer served here she’s only seen rain twice. When I asked my students when the last time was that they’d seen rain they couldn’t even remember. “Maybe last June”? Abdelali offered. “We might have had some in November, but only for a few minutes,” Ayoub confided.

Unknowingly, the night of the rain was the night my host sister and I decided we had had enough with the heat and vowed to sleep on the roof. We carried our pillows and sheets up the stairs and started laying out our spots when it happened.

Thunder.

We cocked our heads and looked at each other. We continued laying out our spots and suddenly the roof was illuminated by lightning. I wasn’t convinced. “Makayshfsh bHal shta…” I said to her. It really didn’t look like rain.

Fatima Zahra lifted her hands to the sky as if to check my statement and, almost by cue, it began to rain. We both squealed with delight and looked curiously at the cold, wet things falling from the sky. We let our hair down and danced, so happy were we to be relieved of the heat.

Despite the late hour (it was nearing 1:45am), the sounds of thunder and rain rose the majority of our street from their beds and they joined us outside. Little kids ran through the streets and their parents didn’t scold them, even though they had to wake up for school the next day. The men sat on the curb and listened to the pitter patter of the rain hitting the pavement. It was everything I had imagined my first rain in the desert to be.

And just like that it was gone.

After a mere twenty minutes the clouds and the thunder rolled away. The sun rose the next morning just as hot as always, as if our beautiful midnight miracle hadn’t happened. But you could see it in people’s eyes, those who had experienced it — the joy that simple act of nature brought.

My only regret is that I haven’t lived here long enough to truly understand its beauty.

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