One Umbrella

Photo Attribution:

Photo Attribution:

For the lips of an adulteress drip honey
And smoother than oil is her speech;
But in the end she is bitter
as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword.
Her feet go down to death,
Her steps take hold of Sheol.

Proverbs 5:3-5


ain falls again, as if it never stopped. I hold but one umbrella, one flimsy shield between me and those storm clouds writhing in the sky. They roll like ocean waves, one enveloping the next, clutching like the fingers of a demon mob, fighting to reach me first. They are foreboding, those clouds above, a black blanket shaken by God, ripples travelling toward me.
And I hold but one umbrella.

I used to outrun those clouds, sprint in my younger days. It is not my legs that fail me now, not my heart screaming for release, not my lungs—dry throat choking on spittle. I’m old enough to have younger days, old enough to look back, but age holds not my end. The future is a blank slate, ready to be filled, but I know what it will hold. Darkness. Despair. Black clouds. Rain.

And I hold but one umbrella.

A rumble. A crash. Purple fire lights up the sky, a royal streak against the black. That blanket is finely woven, groaning as lightning shoots a hole in that once perfect fabric. Perfect for some, but not for me.

I hold but one umbrella.

The rain starts, a sad tune against my own black sheet, that flimsy shield above me. It begins soft—one peck there, another here. Like a lover, those lips are wet, kissing my one umbrella. She whispers in my ear, that taunting seductress: come play. But I am no longer a child: a man.

And I hold but one umbrella.

There were times that I played, listened to her calling. A child with rubber boots, splashing in the puddles. The mud discoloured my bright poncho, turned dull grey over the years. Free. Uncaring. Unknowing. Caught up by lust. Blind-sided. Naive. Innocent. Not like my poncho, long since warn holey, tattered, discarded with my youth. Now, I have less innocence: less protection.

Now, I hold but one umbrella.

Muddy water splashes up, my boot pressing into a puddle. I find no pleasure there, just memories from the past, such recollections that many avoid. I see them—polka-dotted coats and flower-pressed shields—hanging childhood on their shoulder, popping it in a spread above them, but dodging the puddles on the ground, dodging the memories of when life was perfect—innocent—when the world was better.

When there was more than one umbrella.

I tuck my arms in close, shivering with the chill. Those first tears of a rejected maiden roll down my one umbrella, drip from the flimsy posts like chin-fallen droplets. This moment is the worst, before the lady shows her face, as she taunts me with sorrow. I can deal with the monster behind those eyes, deal with the storm to come, but not this crying woman shaking like a child. I want to comfort her, but don’t know how. What can I give to calm those tears?

I hold but one umbrella.

The wind picks up her sorrowed tune, whispers more demanding. Come. Why won’t you play with me? The words are wet with her tears. My ears are wet with her seductive tongue. Breath spins floral kisses on the wind. She floats into the trees, laughs between their branches, then cries out. It’s fun to play with me. I set my feet; ignore her; walk on. Another puddle. Another splash. I do not care. I have a shield above my head, but my childhood poncho is no more.

I hold but one umbrella.

Now she shrieks, a school of bats descending on their prey. Those black wings flap with the wind, rush beneath my shield. The sky spews cracks of thunder between its teeth. The trees howl, knowing what is to come, itching for the storm.

And I hold but one umbrella.

Cold—skin tickled with seductive kisses, silent tears manipulating—but I prefer what comes. The blanket cracks, too much weight for that perfect weave. Water sinks into its pores, ripping through in droves, digs at my pores. Drenched, soaked with her sorrow. She ceases calling now, the beast revealed.

I fell not for her tricks, and now she has ceased the facade. I know her, that adulterous woman, but I stand firm against her cries, also knowing the beast beneath. Her kisses are sweet, poison soaked in honey. Sometimes, my lonely body wants her touch, longs to listen to her loving words, but to give in I would have to throw away my shield.

And I hold but one umbrella.

Other men on the road. They sit beneath tattered awnings, blankets wrapped up tight. I know the bite they feel, that bite of her poison. It pricks my skin with recollection, remembering when I was younger, innocent…

Without my one umbrella.

They shiver, those men, trying to hide from her face, trying not to hear her cries, lick the honeyed poison from her lips. Temptation sticks coat to arms, makes their blankets heavy. The woman pulls her mask off, beautiful skin flayed. Sun-kissed cheeks now red with lust, red with blood, red with her last victim. Those men curl up, close their eyes, a vain attempt to push her away.

They gave up their one umbrella.

I cannot help them, knowing what they do is wrong, yet still remaining soaked: trapped without hope.

I journey on, boots now water-logged. The sky flashes that smile again, this time no menace beneath the teeth. The beast is in those tears that fall: a sad dirge now. Her eyes have passed, the eyes of this storm. I felt the worst of her, despite that shield I hold. She sucked me in with life, with promise, but I fought back with what I have.

Fought with my one umbrella.

It stands between her and me. Small, an insignificant shield against her temptation, but my only protection. The vinyl-topped blanket shook as I passed through the eye, sweet tears of sorrow pulling at my heart strings. Sweet whispering lying to me, promising me all that I do not feel—cannot feel: love, respect, belonging. The maiden cares for me, but that poison beneath will kill. Those eyes are beautiful, but the beast beneath them is a mess of flayed skin and blood.

And I hold but one umbrella.

My shield took the assault, blocked me from those longing eyes. Now, it walks with me through the dirge, protects me from the falling drink. Children play in the puddles, unhindered by that lady’s calling, not hearing it through their rain-gear: the full protection of innocence. How I long for those days again, the days when I knew not love, knew not lust, but cared not for either. Those days were free, temptation just a shadow compared to this storm.

The days before my one umbrella.

I am especially wet today, more cold than from the storm before. My umbrella has leaked for years, and I lack the patches to hold it together. A tattered thread is flayed like skin, battered and whipped by the storm’s wind. The patches I have are soggy, water-logged with lust, adhesive long washed away.

And I hold but one umbrella.

I speak to her some days, try to work at the holes in her skin, holes in her heart, but my patches do not stick. They stay until the storm comes, until the seductress laughs, then my shield falls beneath her power. Hopeless holes appear again. I tell her I need thread and needle, need to poke her with tiny holes, affix the patches for good. She shivers at the thought, fights when I reach for her, thinking my aim is to hurt. A little pain, but a big help. Sadly, she will not give in, not let me patch her holes

So I hold my one umbrella.

Men sit in puddles, some deeper than others, umbrellas to one side. Their faces are aglow with passion, but hearts dead with lonely weight. Some of that cloth is more holes than umbrella. Some posts are snapped, broken heaps where protection once was. The men discarded them, water-logged patches sliding down faces. The water is warm where they are now, inviting in those puddles… until the rain comes again.

Now, they hold no umbrella.

I want to run to them, tell them it’s a lie, to show them the other men who sit shivering beneath their blankets, no longer warmed by that pool. I cannot reach them. They cannot hear me, ears filled with pleasant whispers. Her perfume is sweet, voice singing softly in spring trees. Her beauty shines beneath the sun’s radiance, as they walk with holey umbrellas. When the rain is stilled, those umbrellas do nothing but block her beauty. My umbrella does not even do such anymore, her holes too great, tattered skin too far gone.

But I hold my one umbrella close.

I know what it’s like to give in. I know what it’s like to give up, to throw my umbrella to one side like those men in pools at night. I know the feel of that beast’s stings, her maiden curls turning into dead strands, that pool filled with perfume’s delight fading into memory, skin raw, body shaking beneath a blanket.

My umbrella is full of holes, but is better than none. Today, I work at the patches, the sun giving me some chance to let the vinyl dry. My lady heaves sobs in my lap as I work needle and thread. Tears touch my face, drop from my chin, kiss my one umbrella. They slide down her face, over some new patches. No water falls between the cracks, no leaks where stitches hold. I smile at her, like a child in arms, knowing days will be better.

We have been through some rough times. Once I left her, discarded in the mud. Left to meet the rain, to feel her poisonous kisses, to warm myself with her body. Then, she left me for another, the maiden turning beast. I wandered the world with no umbrella, until I found my lady again. She was worse than when I left, but I picked her up. Sometimes she lets me patch her holes, sometimes it is too much when the rain comes, memories of what I did, where I went… that I left.

Memories of me without that umbrella.

Now, the sun shines. We cry. We work to fix those holes. Work for the storm to come. Life has its seasons, times of change. Sometimes it rains. Sometimes we falter. But I still hold her close, hold my one umbrella. I will not give her up again. With her, I still get wet. With her, I still hear the seductive whispers. With her I still feel alone and unloved at times. But without her… without her, I have nothing.

Not even my one umbrella.

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