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THE WAY IT IS NOW by Anna Oberg

Rain is best defined by its action—falling. Once the rain comes, things begin to wash away, downward. Water drips from the leaves of the trees, filters through the soil, mixing, dissipating, pooling in low places. As soon as it hits the ground, it is no longer rain, but puddle, stream, current, tide. It fills gutters and ditches, running to the river where gravity pulls it hard over boulders, smoothing edges, eating away, shaping the shape of difficult things until they disintegrate, become something else: eroding, evaporating.

And the rain comes again.

It is the nature of all things to fall apart. Entropy is a measure of disorder, and loss is the way it—disorder—has always entered my life.

Rain, it seems, is introductory: A drop falls. A first mistake always leads to a last mistake. The world unravels. A million separate entropies unfold with the rain.


The way it is now, in my mind’s eye: I grapple on my hands and knees, searching a dusty room for a story. The sound of rain is heavy in my memory. For a while, ‘our story’ is the only one I ever tell myself. Then, life happens, as it does, and D. tells me he doesn’t love me.

He never did.

I moved out. Married someone else.

Now, a decade and a half later, my friend, A., dies in a freak accident, and I am back to not knowing what the story is.

In the dark, I wait on some light promised at the end of a long tunnel.

It’s tempting to tell these stories in tandem, as if they happened right next to one another. But, there is a ravine—fifteen years—between losing D. and losing A. They have nothing to do with each other, yet, they are continually tangling in my brain, as if the two losses share the same feeling. The loss of A. arcs back to when I lost D, and when I think of D. it catapults me forward, to now, as I tread this new, sodden ground, mired in the loss of A. I could braid these stories together, as they are in my head, but what I want most is to free up some space—untangle the knot they make inside of me.

Time passes like water.


D. and I had the simplest type of story there is—a girl loving a boy. A first love born in the summertime in the mountains, fostered by angst, long-distance over the phone. A love unexpected and sweet and fleeting. The kind that’s fast—so fast I wasn’t sure what was happening until the season was over and I didn’t want to have to say goodbye. I decided we were the exception to the rule—that if we tried to make it long distance, it would work.

I graduated and moved across the country, from Tennessee to Seattle, convinced it was the only way for us to be together. I told myself, I’m not just going for D., that I wanted to move to the West Coast. I told myself, I could come home anytime, all the while ignoring the wise ones who reminded me that going home again was as futile as flinging raindrops back into the cloud.


It is true: searching begins with lost-ness. If I am searching for something, either I have never had it, or it has run through my fingers until it is gone, realizing, whatever, or whoever is lost, has become all I am looking for, despite it having turned to ether, evaporated. Lost things are most often found when I stop looking. A dollar on the sidewalk. A place for lunch. An earring under the bed. If I cease trying to see the specific, it often shows up. A little glint in the corner: “There it is.”

This was how I felt the entire time I was with D. I had found the one thing I didn’t know I was looking for.


The rain that February day came to me like a dream. In my memory, it was more like swimming than running. On one of my first visits to Washington, before I moved there, I was training for a marathon—I couldn’t miss my long training run. The world was muffled by the sounds of water falling, running down the street, where the curb met the road. A driving rain—cold, earthy, maniacal, otherworldly. The clouds hanging so low I wasn’t sure I wasn’t in the sky. Not a single step was dry. Grayness descending, the  water coming, falling, falling, and I am immersed.

Each new drop didn’t matter. The line blurred between new and old, here and there. What came, came quickly, without warning. The torrent blew in sideways, a whole capsized scene, an act of God. Boundaries dissolved. The horizon, blotted out. I had no idea where I was going, or if I would get there. One foot in front of the other, as something like faith assured me the road was still there.

Now, in hindsight, I recognize that February rain was a premonition of how my whole relationship with D. would be. How blinded I would become by love. By the end of the run, my clothes were soaked through, and I was freezing. When I got back to the house I longed for a hot bath.

When I look back now, I ask: Who is that girl? Who is that girl that ran in the rain? That girl was me—before I had my heart broken.



How do things fall apart? A ring tarnishes. A hinge rusts. The process of decline is not always evident at first. Entropy reveals itself over time. The way ice dissolves between sunrises and sunsets. The glint fades. Some piece of glimmer dims and in the long shadows at the end of the day what remains reveals itself.

It was raining the last time I saw D. A light drizzle, a low-hanging fog resting above the tops of the evergreens lining the road. Just before he drove away, he looked deep into my eyes and told me: I don’t love you. I never did.

The oxygen left the room, and I saw the cold, clear edges of things—it was over.

He was gone.


There’s no way of knowing how grief changes me unless I examine it all—from the very moment of its inception. I study it, witness myself watching entropy unfold, my own wholeness receding. Things will never be the same.

But what I want, what I hold to, despite knowing this truth, is the sheen of deluded hope that everything can go back to the way it was. The harsh reality: To heal I will have to know beyond anything that life will not return to what it was. I will have to learn this deeply, on a cellular level. That is: To accept loss is the only way to heal. The same way to accept entropy is the only way to live.


The way it is now: I Google entropy. Somewhere in the definition is this: left unchecked, disorder increases over time. I wonder: Is this what middle age is? Entropy? Watching the systems I have known my whole life dissolve into chaos? I say my whole life as if it is an entirety, but so far, I can divide it into thirds. The first third is before I meet D. The second third is after. Out of that loss, I meet my husband and have three kids who delight me. Now, I’m in the third, third, which arrives after the loss of A. I hope my thirds become sixths, but the way it is now—I see two befores and two afters, and I wonder what’s ahead?


When A. died, nearly fifteen years to the day after D. abandoned me in his upstairs bedroom, all the air that left the room came rushing back, choking me, blunting the view, making it impossible to see my way forward.

Another curtain of rain.

It began to sprinkle when my friend Andrea called to tell me about A.’s wreck. I was driving, the feeling leaving my feet as I flipped on the windshield wipers. In my watery memory, they seemed so close to my face, as if I was leaning way over the steering wheel toward the dash, as if the wipers were trying and failing, over and over, to erase everything away.

It’s bad, Andrea said over the phone. I needed to pull over, but I wanted to be home.  Suddenly, I had the feeling of descending. I was not at a high place, yet, I was falling fast. I went to bed that afternoon and didn’t get up. I laid there, watching the clouds pass. A deep, blue darkness seeped in, and the wind picked up, clearing the air. The storm was over, and this loss was like nothing that had ever happened to me, except for the day D. drove off, down the road, into the rainy fog between the tall pines. I thought I’d never feel that way again—but, here it is—the loss of D., my only reference point. I identify it, unmistakably.


Rain can be a blessing, sometimes. It slows things down, makes thoughts come languidly at the pace of watching a drop of water roll down a windowpane. I only have one thought in the days after A.’s death—that I’ll never see her again.

And raindrops roll down a windowpane, again and again.

There is an expression: When it rains it pours. When it rains, now, something in me is poured out. Gone. There is some little piece of me that believes the sun will never shine again as I watch water fall from the sky. The way it feels now is the way it will feel forever. I am caught in the space of fifteen years ago, the space between raindrops. While I’m way past wanting D., I will never want A. to be gone.


It is winter now, and no rain has fallen in months, only snow. But between rains, there is time. And between drops, there is dry space. Even during the most torrential downpour there is an interval between the drops. Eventually, I will stand on solid ground.

This is my only comfort: The expectation that when rain begins, not only will the water fall, but if there is enough, it will also rise.


Anna Anna Oberg is a professional photographer based in Estes Park, Colorado. When she's not arranging family portraits with the perfect view of Long's Peak as backdrop, she focuses on writing tiny memories and small stories. She has been published in Mud Season Review, Pidgeonholes, Causeway Lit, The Maine Review, decomp Journal, The Festival Review, and Split Rock Review, among others. You can find Anna here: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and her website

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