Rainstorms of Despair

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The rain was harsh that morning. Our house was dark inside despite the dimmed brightness coming from the windows. As I prepared my breakfast, I couldn’t get my eyes away from the photo of me, Nick, and our parents on the refrigerator. Every few minutes, I would turn my gaze at it. But I couldn’t help but frown at both the photo and the gloomy weather outside.

Recently, all universities across Pennsylvania closed due to a statewide quarantine. Nick and I had to remain home and take our classes remotely. It wasn’t how I intended to spend the second half of the semester, but if the governor demanded all schools to close, then so be it. But we couldn’t retrieve our belongings inside the dorms until later. At the time, we were on spring break and didn’t think the virus would spread rapidly. Now it has progressively gotten worse, with government officials calling for everyone to shelter-in-place across the state. People could leave home to visit essential businesses, visit doctors, or exercise.

Yesterday, I was in my room working on assignments for graduate studies at Penn State University on my laptop. That afternoon, my mother called me, Nick, and our father down to the living room for an urgent family meeting. We learned our uncle called to inform us that our aunt contracted the virus and was now in quarantine away from her house. I felt uneasy about the whole thing. It was hard to believe one of my family members had contracted an illness. I feared that one of us could have contracted the virus. Worse, people will think we have it. I had a hunch things were bound to get worse.

But I wasn’t concerned about the rain. Coincidence or not, whenever Nick or I were in despair, it always rained. And most of the time, it was related to Nick. When I was in the third grade, he wanted to go to the park on a Saturday in May. But it rained on the planned date. He wanted to go, but his parents were against it due to the weather. So he threw a tantrum over the bad news. It took mom and dad fifteen minutes to calm him down. Even after he calmed down, he just stared out the window. He didn’t want to play with his toys, nor did he want to play with the Nintendo 64. He just silently looked outside. I don’t know if he cared when I hugged him to cheer him up.

When Nick was in third grade, the first day of class was supposed to be a good one. But all the fun expectations came crashing down when one of the adults accidentally leaked the death of one of their classmates to the students. And the rain came at a perfect time. They might have lost recess, but it was minor compared to losing their friend. The teachers sent emails and made phone calls to the parents of the third graders about the situation. Some of the students weren’t aware of the tragedy until that exact moment, so it was hard for some of them to take in. When Nick came home, I hugged him. His face looked neutral, however.

Then came the day of Nick’s ninth-grade dance. He was looking forward to taking part in this event and meeting new friends. However, he woke up that morning to the tragic news of a DUI crash that took the life of a beloved friend and underclassman. I wasn’t aware of the incident until I saw Nick’s Facebook post on the matter. From what mom and dad told me, this tragedy affected students across the district. Despite these events, the dance still took place, albeit on a rainy day. But Nick wasn’t as thrilled about going to the dance then. I’m sure some of his friends felt the same. I tried calling him that day, but he didn’t respond to the message.

Back in 2001, I wanted to go to a star viewing in the park over the summer, but the rain prevented me from that experience. I felt upset. I was about to throw a tantrum in denial of the cancellation. But my father hugged me, and I calmed down despite going to sleep earlier than planned. Nick didn’t seem to mind. He was too busy playing with his toys to care about me.

In November of 2011, it rained as I drove home for Thanksgiving Break during my first year of college. It was hard to be a student at Penn State during those times. I even had to remove all the Penn State bumper stickers from my car and wear my high school hoodie throughout the three-and-a-half-hour trip home. People were talking about my school at every pitstop. I couldn’t tell if they gave the students any sympathy about what happened, especially if we weren’t responsible for the scandal in the first place. They were disappointed to see classmates of mine wearing clothes from Penn State. I didn’t want to hear my school being insulted, so I made my trips to Wawa and other pitstops brief. And once I got home, my mother and father hugged me the moment I walked out of my car. But Nick didn’t hug me. I knew he couldn’t understand the pain I felt, but at the same time, he felt different. He didn’t understand any of it. His ignorance was the worst part of that entire experience for me.

And now, I was unsure of how things would turn out in the future for us. The virus was spreading fast, people weren’t listening to the stay at home orders, and now my own family could have been infected. Sure, only our mother went out to get groceries, but I sometimes went out as well. That’s two people, repeat, TWO people in my immediate family who could have come into contact with someone infected! And I was one of them! At that moment, I remembered someone sneezed right at me rather than covering up during one of my grocery runs! That memory made me drop my spoon onto the kitchen floor. I felt my body paralyzed in fear as it rushed through my skin, leaving me powerless to stop the pain.

All my mind could think about was that memory. If someone sneezed on me, then I could have been infected! He could have had the virus! And I’ve come into contact with my family! Mom, Dad, Nick; all of them could be infected now! With no cure at the time, who knows if we’d ever recover! And what about my friends? They could have come into contact with someone like that man! These were only a few of the thoughts racing through my head.

Suddenly, two arms wrapped around me. It awoke me from the trance, but I was also surprised to see that Nick was hugging me.

“Don’t be scared, sis,” he said. “We’ll get through this craziness just fine. We just have to do our part. No virus will ever separate us.”

“Nick...,” I said.

His embrace made me remember significant memories of my past. At first, I remember the times I hugged him to try and cheer him up when we were kids. But then I remembered how he liked having me teach him about history, astronomy, astrology, and other subjects. Unlike when he was down, he felt happy, excited, intrigued by all I told him. And that made me happy. I was a mentor to him while as a sister for him. It was much different. For the first time, I felt a soothing warmth I could not find anywhere else in the world. For the first time, my brother helped me get a hold of myself through compassion and love.

I broke free from Nick’s hug, only to hug him myself. I couldn’t hold my feelings back anymore. I regained my confidence in both myself and my dreams thanks to him. It was the first time my brother took it upon himself to help me. I thought his impaired social skills would affect him his entire life, but thankfully, I was wrong. He’s improved over the years.

“Don’t you have an assignment to do? You spent all day yesterday working on it!” he said.

Nick did have a point, but I was thankful for his concern.

“Promise me you’ll ace your exams and get that diploma, ok Nick? We’ve worked so hard already. We can’t let this virus take away our future,” I said.

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