Sometimes I stand outside in the baking summer afternoons as though I were an astronaut getting her first glimpse of a new landscape. What is this place? Houses sprung up out of the hard packed earth like a Lego village on the side of the moon. This neighborhood sports split level homes, each with a good-size front and back yard, stacked next to each other. Every one with a similar color scheme - shades of brown and beige and cream. The only color comes from the newly planted lawns that run up and down the street. Each morning at 7:30 garage doors open and disgorge their contents one by one. The men head off to work, a parade of ants climbing the steep slope to the stop sign at the top where they pause and then disappear into the shimmering heat of the day.
Most afternoons the wind kicks up, bringing with it the sweet, crackly scent of a rainstorm. The fine fur on my arms stands up in warning and I close my eyes, anticipating the rolling rumble from above as the purple-black clouds are pulled over the neighborhood like a shade drawn to keep out the sunlight. The empty lots behind our house showcase enormous funnels of dust swirling and dancing, sometimes sweeping up unsuspecting tumbleweeds and playing with them until they tire of the fun and finally spit them out. I stand on the sidewalk in front of the house and listen to the sound of children racing their bikes home, mothers sliding windows shut and locking them firmly. We know the drill. The tall aspens and firs, cedar trees with their soft, reaching boughs that I long for in my thoughts could never survive here. I imagine watching them as they are pulled slowly from the ground and dragged down the street by the insistent wind.
I can smell the over-ripe fruit smell even more strongly now. The rain is moments away. I miss the rain and wish I could stand outside and raise my arms to the sky as it fell, welcoming it and soaking it up like one of those 'grow-your-own-sea-creatures'. Pulling the rain drops into every cell, plumping them up until they are ripe and round and full, standing tall and impervious to everything.
I can hear my stepmother calling. The lightning is coming. I will go inside and take advantage of our position on the hill to watch it strike in the valley down below and listen to the rain pummel the house. This is my favorite part of living here. Maybe the only part I truly love. Sitting inside the house, safe and dry and warm as rivulets of water carve themselves into the hard-packed earth and race down the hill. Listening to the drops fall like marbles onto the roof and the thunder roll across the sky above - bowling balls down the alley. The wind is invisible. There are no trees to mark its strength.