Lightning Strikes

“If the weathercaster says it’s gonna rain…”

Maybe he did. But I didn’t hear him. No, today was a complete surprise for me… I walked to work listening to birds chirp, feeling that bliss you feel when spring has only really been upon you for a week, and the sun, regardless of its insistent flirtation with the clouds, still feels like a miracle. Sure, there had been a little bit of rain in the morning, but by the time I got to work, I was mourning the fact that, yet again, I would be working indoors on a beautiful day.

After work I had improv class, and that’s when the fun began.

It started off slow. Before class started, someone mentioned a tornado watch; and as we started going through improv exercises, one by one, students began receiving notifications on their phones of a tornado warning. At first our reaction was mild surprise, a kind of chuckling disbelief; but as more and more people got the messages, the talk quickly turned to, “Is there a basement in this place?” And finally — as all sane people do when they receive a tornado warning — we briefly went outside to check out the sky.

To be honest, it looked fine… there was no wind or rain, the sky was still a normal color… Of course, I have no knowledge when it comes to tornadoes, but nothing seemed to be unusual. Class continued, though unfortunately not without an air of distraction. Every once in a while, someone would hear a noise (usually just the tenants of the apartment above the theater), and get a fearful look on their face, and then the conversation would turn back to tornado safety.

Honestly? I was elated. Not so much about the tornado… I mean, tornadoes can be terrifying and deadly, obviously. But once we hit a point where the tornado warning was over, and we accepted that we weren’t going to get carried away, Dorothy-style, the possibility of a thunder storm popped into my head.

And sure enough, about twenty minutes before class ended, it started to rain.

And thunder.

WHICH MEANT THAT THERE WOULD BE LIGHTNING!

I have an irrational love of lightning. I think it’s the coolest thing. Lightning is God’s gift to humanity. I mean, sure, if it strikes you, you’ll die, but LOOK HOW BADASS IT LOOKS! It’s chaotic, and vibrant, and bristling with electricity. It’s a magnificent act of nature. Lightning is a radiant blast of humility in a world possessed by a belief that we alone have power.

I have been known to stand out in the rain during a thunderstorm to try to see lightning (all right, lesson #1: never take safety lessons from Sam). I did just that tonight. After class, I ran home, grabbed my umbrella, gleefully yelled “THERE’S LIGHTNING!” to my roommate, and ran out the door.

It’s not that I want to be hit by lightning. It’s just that I’m a lightning addict. There’s something liberating about seeing a bolt traversing the sky, crackling and illuminating the night; and it happens so quickly, if you’re looking in the wrong direction, you’ll miss it. It becomes a game to me: I try to guess exactly where the next bolt will be, and sometimes the gamble pays off — but sometimes it doesn’t, and all I see is the surrounding sky lighting up, mocking me with the possibility of what I could have seen.

God, I must have looked like a nut tonight, standing by the river (seriously, guys, I’m the worst) with an umbrella that only covered me from my waist up, grinning and laughing every time I caught a glimpse of a bolt. And when the rain had soaked into my jeans and I finally began to feel chilled, I thought, as I always do in my lightning hunts, “Okay, just one more, and then I’ll go inside.” I always end up saying that three or four times before I actually go home.

I’m not going to wax too philosophical on you guys, and go on about how lightning is a metaphor for the brevity of life or anything like that, but I will say that lightning puts you in your place. There’s nothing like a bolt of concentrated energy to remind you that life can be surprising, and unpredictable, and out of your control. But sometimes that’s the fun part: if I knew exactly where to look for the bolts, it wouldn’t feel as good when I finally see one dead-on.

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