To many, a clogged storm drain is useless, broken, and defective. You don’t think of a pristine, shining silver metal plate, but instead a rusty, reddish-brown, eroded disk covered with the gunk of God-knows-what. Your stomach turns. You don’t want to think about the mass of sludge plugging up the holes.You can barely see the metal, but what you can see is crumbly and fractured. It’s disgusting. It’s worthless. It needs to be fixed. For the small community of misfits, though, it wasn’t broken. It wasn’t useless and it didn’t need to be repaired. It was, in fact, the clogged storm drain that held them together. It was the broken drain that fixed them.
The families were quiet. The families were solitary.They had their own issues. They had their own lives. They were simply put together to live together. There were the single mothers, the abandoned elderly, the victims of a poor job economy. Although they came in every color, shape, and size, they all wore the same decaffeinated expression. They swayed with the sleepwalk of another restless night, each struggling to make it to the next day. For the ones they loved, they fought to want to make it to the next day. Upon each face was the exhaustion of the three jobs and seven mouths to feed.
The apartments weren’t much to look at. They could easily be compared to military barracks, being made almost solely from cement with a bit of iron and brick jutting out here and there. The kids used this comparison to their advantage, running about with toy guns playing war and cops and robbers and tag.The apartment’s series of severely angular staircases made it difficult to run from level to level quickly, but the children embraced this, using it to challenge and better themselves.
Ranging from seven to seventeen, the pack of kids were a family of their own. After school, while each of their parents had to work, the kids would meet at the playground in between each of the apartment compounds. This is where the games began. This is where teams were lined up, wooden guns were handed out, and strategies were discussed. The kids would play for hours, never running out of breath, wishing the light would never fade. This was their escape. This was their heaven. Alas, at the end of the day, each child was called to his or her home, returning somberly, impatient for the next day.
There was a hole which some might call a ditch right next to to one of the apartment buildings. It was long enough for everyone to clamber around in, but narrow enough that it wasn’t the ideal play area. At the bottom of the ditch was a storm drain that, due to the neglect of the management was perpetually clogged with what the children believed to be alien remains. The kids would take their sticks, climb into the divot, and dare each other to poke the greenish-white goo.
It would rain. Hard. The ground wouldn’t be able to soak up the water as quickly as the rain thought it could, and like a desert, it would flood. The ditch would fill and fill and fill to the brim. The adults would call management and complain. Management would be busy as usual. The apartment misfits would stay confined to their cells, opening unpaid bills and holding each other tight. They each let his or her worries and fears well up inside of them. There was nothing anyone could do for them. Why bother asking for help?So many people in one building. So many people. Each living his or her own life. They had their own problems. They were on their own. They were alone.
If a passerby had decided to walk past the apartments, they would’ve thought them to be infested with owls. Pairs upon pairs of large, weary eyes peered out, young and old, drinking in the rain, drowning in their dry safehaven. The air’s cold humidity left each person feeling raw and vulnerable, unable to hide what a cage they’d built around themselves. The rain was unavoidable. Inescapable.
Suddenly, a streak of green flashed across the ground and disappeared into the pond created by the overflowing ditch.
Steps are taken back in disbelief.
Then a streak of orange follows the green, jumping into the pond, trailed by a streak of blue. The eyes are all squinted now, attempting to make out what they thought they’d seen. Colors stream into the makeshift pool. Lips curl upwards. Laughs trickle from the windows and the pairs of eyes are disappearing one by one from the windows. Everyone, kids and adults, are splashing in the ditch.
The sun is not shining. The rain is cold. The bills aren’t paid. But in that moment, life is beautiful.
The filth, the muck. That is what brings us together. This is what connects us. Only when we stop filtering the rain away can we see that we are not on our own. We all struggle. Even if just for a little while, we can all see the beauty in the storm. We are a community. We are a family. We are not alone.