Andrea Coller's Blog
Thursday, July 06, 2006
There was an umbrella thief at large in my otherwise sleepy Northampton neighborhood last week. It had been raining for days on end, and I emerged one morning from my front door, ready to face it all. I looked out to where my umbrella should have been, and found it to be missing. I'd left it on my pseudo-enclosed porch the night before, because it was positively drenched, figuring that it would dry as much as possible overnight. I gave a quick look around, cursed the person who'd stolen it, then went back upstairs to fetch one of my spares.

(I do hoard umbrellas, because I am constantly losing them, leaving them places, and now, apparently, being a victim of thievery.)

I used my spare that day, and mostly forgot about the umbrella thief. I took a moment when I got home that night and thought that it must all have been some weird misunderstanding, and I left my second umbrella out on my porch that night. You can imagine what happened to it. Yes. Gone.

The next morning, down to my last spare, the one with the bent handle that barely covered my head, I arrived at work soaking wet. For the entire day, I brooded, wrote pretentious, strange poems about my experiences and contemplated leaving them on top of an umbrella on my porch.

I vacillated between sympathy and rage. Sympathy-"I hope that you really needed it," but then, to rage, "How DARE you steal my protection from the elements??" and back to sympathy, "You must have had someone steal your protection from the world, and now feel that you must make others feel the same."

That night at PACE during open mic, it started to rain, torrentially. And I, of course, had left my umbrella at work. I was in the rage moment of my emotional cycle, so I snatched an umbrella from the stand by the door on my way out. I reasoned to myself that I truly needed it- after all, someone had just left it there. It may have even been mine to start with, for all of the umbrellas I'd ever left at PACE. Besides, I'd been fending off a cold for weeks, and had to go to the doctor in a few days, and he would NOT be pleased to learn that I was walking around in the rain unprotected.

He was not pleased, in fact, with the way my lungs sounded- so much so that he asked me if I had taken up smoking. Well, not even I am that dumb, of course, so it was more medication for me-an inhaler and a 2-week course of steroids.

I moped for a few days, imagining the sleep loss, the hunger, and other weird side-effects that could be caused. I once again mourned my horrific luck, which filtered down through the messed-up weather in New England, the coffee stain on my favorite shirt, and all the way down to the fact that they don't sell Twizzlers OR Swedish Fish at the Cinemark in Hadley. (I moped through Superman Returns, having settled for DOTS.)

When I got home that night, in the dark, I spotted a neon green patch in the corner of the bushes in my front yard. I walked over to it, touched it, and then pulled- it was the second stolen umbrella. I was floored. I started to turn around when I realized that there was what looked to be a flower floating in the same bush. I touched it, and it was nylon. It was my Monet-print umbrella, the first stolen one, buried deep and camouflaged. At first I accused the umbrella thief of stashing them there, just to be cruel. Then I realized that it must have been the wind, the neighborhood cats, or some other force of nature that caused them to end up there. As I closed them both and walked upstairs, I realized that the only malicious, foolish person was me. I was the only umbrella thief in my life.

On Independence Day, I was invited to Joe and Juliette's for a barbecue. Still in a trance of weirdness, I said "maybe" to their kind invitation, and sat around for a few hours before deciding to go. It was the first day that I'd decided to take my steroids, what I call my "crazy drugs," so I arrived at the party trying not to think about it, wearing my sundress and a smile.

I was off to a rocky start, having heard from another partygoer, "Prednisone? You're going to gain 30 pounds and you're going to go crazy. You won't even be able to control it."

To a control freak with food issues, that is quite possibly the WORST thing that you could say. EVER. I tried to just laugh it off, but it echoed in my head through the whole party. When it was time to decide if we were going to the fireworks at UMass, I thought that I might just stay at Joe and Juliette's place and read Bruce Campbell's autobiography until they returned. But by then, there were only four of us left, so I decided to go too. We drove over to UMass and camped out by the small-scale replica of Stonehenge, and played "Oh Shit" and ate Terra chips until the fireworks started.

There are very few moments that I consider truly holy in my crazy belief system; including Christmas morning with my family, crowding onto a blanket with all my friends at Falcon Ridge, and fireworks. The view from Stonehenge was amazing, and there were fantastic echoes to each blast as the blazing ashes fell down from the sky.

It's easy, in these moments, to promise oneself things- "I'll finish my book this year," "I'll be better at returning phone calls," or "I'll never steal another umbrella again." But as the last sparks fell down and the crowd applauded wildly, I had the realization that the only promise that I could keep would be to try my very best- to try to write more, love better, and not let the little things turn me into a mopey umbrella thief.

Because surely it will rain again soon.
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