I warned him not to go out in the rain. I told him it wasn't safe, but he didn't understand. Sometimes I think he didn't want to understand.
He would sit at the window on rainy days, looking out at the world like he was hypnotized. If any other children passed by outside, he would fuss, and when he was feeling fractious he couldn't seem to help being difficult with me.
“Why is it all right for them to be in the rain? Nothing bad is happening to them.”
“No, darling, but you aren't like them. You must stay inside when it rains. Don't worry. You're safe here with me.”
“I'm not worried! I just want to know. Why is the rain bad?”
“It just isn't good for you. You'll understand when you're older.”
“I want to know now. Is it bad to get wet? I get wet in the bath, you know. I take baths all the time.”
“Baths are safe, dear. There is no reason to worry about the bath.”
“What about the shower? That's like rain.”
“I can see how you might think so, but you are wrong. A shower is completely different from the rain. The shower is safe.”
“So what is safe and what is not safe? Is it because the rain is outside? We go outside on sunny days.”
“There is nothing to be afraid of on sunny days. The garden is a good place to be on a sunny day. Would you like to walk in the garden tomorrow?”
“I want to go to the garden now. Why don't we ever do what I want to do?”
“Because you don't know what's good for you and I do. Tomorrow, if it's not raining, we can walk in the garden, but today we must stay in the house.”
He was always happy outside. It worried me, even though I loved to see him happy. I knew what it meant and I knew I would never be able to stop it. But I did try. I built such a wonderful garden for us, for him. I created beautiful geometric hedges and flowerbeds, with gravel pathways and even—against my better judgment--a few trees large enough for him to climb. Plants are very safe, if you're willing to work with them. I couldn't keep the animals out, but I tried not to worry; the ones that he actually saw were so small, just birds and insects. The butterflies really did worry me, but the bees were a reassuring presence. Everything was in its place and happy, everything was controlled, everything was safe. So all I ever really needed to worry about was the weather.
The day I lost him didn't even start out sunny; it was grey from sunrise on and I should have known better than to go out. But it had been sunny for weeks and the morning clouds looked wispy and weak, and I knew form experience that even if the weather got worse, he would be easier to deal with if he got a short walk outside than none at all. So I bundled him up, to cover as much of his skin as possible, and we went out at our usual time.
It was warmer in the garden than it had looked from indoors, almost muggy, and he pulled his hat off right away and dropped it a moment later. Already I was beginning to have a bad feeling about what might happen, and as I replaced it I was sharper with him than I should have been.
“You must, you must wear your hat today! Don't take it off again!”
“I'm not cold! I won't wear it!”
He yanked it off of his head and threw it away from him, into the hedges. At the same time, he took off running, away from me, and worse, away from the house. If I had gone right after him I probably could have caught him, but the hat distracted me for just a split second and it was enough for him to get a few yards' head start. Within moments, the chase had become a game for him, and he laughed as he ran, evading me, pulling off his clothes.
We were almost at the far end of the garden when the rain started. There was absolutely no hope. Every drop that touched his skin reminded him of what he really was, and in no time at all he was soaked through, a wild thing, and not mine at all. He was still running, but he didn't care whether I chased him or not. I don't know if he remembered I was even there. He belonged to the rain, and the woods, and the wilderness, and he was going to run.
I didn't see where he ran.
I went back home, and I shut the door, and I locked it. I couldn't have anything that dangerous in my house.
Aurora Nibley lives in Hollywood with her husband and cat. She writes about football of all things over at http://writingthebench.blogspot.com, and you can Twitter her to your heart's delight over at http://twitter.com/AuroraNibley