Summer Squall

The thunder is raging and the ink-black sky fills with lightning. I can imagine Jupiter wending through the sea of clouds, his white beard hanging low to the ground, his naked loins poised for warfare, his face contorted into a grimace or a gale of rapturous laughter. We’re on his turf now.

We turn the lights down low as we eat dinner. It’s 9 p.m. and the woods of our backyard are plunged alternately in pitch blackness and an ethereal white light that is punctuated by rolling peals of thunder. We go outside and the air tastes of static and humidity and metallic foreboding.

I am wearing short shorts and a tank top because it’s 90 degrees. Sweat rolls down the insides of my arms, and I feel small gnats sticking like burrs to my hot flesh. I know I’ll end up with red welts the size of quarters all over me in the morning, but I can barely be bothered to swat them off.

I clutch Shawn’s hand as we stand on our porch, hesitating to explore further out beyond the ocean of dark lawn. Or, I should say that it is I who is hesitant. Shawn is fearless as he holds his camera up to the sky, documenting the apocalyptic storm. Is it even a storm? I’ve never heard of a storm without rain.

But there is wind. The trees crackle and shake beneath the weight of the air. Its branches carry a secret: the new residence of the great patriarch is a malformed oak that overlooks the shed beyond my bedroom window. I can almost hear his voice, calling to me. Seduction bottled in the frequency of a summer squall.

I’m Nirmala Nataraj, a New York–based writer, editor, book midwife, theater artist, and mythmaker.

As someone who has woven in and out of a number of different word realms—nonprofit communications, advertising, theatre, publishing, and community arts, to name a few—I know that liberation is possible through the stories we choose to tell. As a first-generation South Asian American, I myself exist in the liminal spaces between cultures, art forms, and languages—and it is this multiplicity of narratives that informs my personal and professional approach.

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