Something about September managed to make me exceptionally heartsick to leave Barranquilla next June.
In September, it rains.
When it rains, it pours.
When it pours, it arroyos.
Arroyos are Barranquilla’s embarrassing, infamous stepchild born of poor city planning. The city is named for its placement on a river bank, yet no one considered gravity and the rainy season coming together in a crushing force of nature. Technicalities aside, arroyos mean that the streets act as a drainage system, which means that some of them turn into raging rivers that have been known to sweep away taxis, motos and humans.
The city stops when it rains.
Buses and taxis pull over, people crowd under tienda awnings or find refuge in the nearest mall or supermarket. Various streets are uncrossable, even as the resident street dwellers open up for business with lucrative makeshift bridges. Pay a few hundred pesos to save your shoes and cross the inundated gutters on stones, scraps of wood or even bicycle and hand carts. It’s totally worth the spare change. Or you can wait it out – when it rains, no one is expected to arrive on time, or at all. Transportation is at a standstill and, did you know it makes you sick? Getting wet in the rain? It’s really, really bad for you. There’s no way your mom is letting you leave the house. So you wait.
I’m not exactly sure what this has to do with my preemptive nostalgia.
Maybe it’s watching the city collectively stop as soon as the drops start falling. Even the mango guy below my building tosses a sheath of plastic over his collection and posts up on the curb with the newspaper guy, the gum-and-cigarette guy and the homeless guys. They sit there and wait.
Maybe it’s that September’s rain brought a new, forgotten sensation: cold. The temperature drops and storms draw forth these chilly breezes that conveniently sweep through my new apartment until we have to barricade the windows against sheets of rain. The rain breaks the peremptory, endless summer and it feels like fall every few days. Consequently, the cold showers and mosquitoes are less welcome, but it’s a fair exchange to stop sweating and even venture to put on long sleeves (75 degrees may as well be the first frost.)
Furthermore, the weather patterns have created the most intense watercolor skies I’ve seen since living here. All the photos are unedited iPhone shots from my bedroom window. The foreground isn’t so special, you have to look further to appreciate the candid, simple beauty.
If that’s not a metaphor for this city, I don’t know what is.