It had been raining a lot, and heavily. Trips outside of the house included running to various workplaces under umbrellas and ponchos, but nowhere else. And even though we had a plethora of video games and board games and each other to keep ourselves entertained, we were all getting on edge from the intruding cabin fever.
We were a bunch of guys living in a three-story house on one of the busiest and most commercial streets in the city. We called our house “the Aquarium” for reasons that are still hazy. They were fantastic times in which we had each other at hand to go out to the bar, take a walk down to the local game shop, or just hang out at home.
This day, however, was getting to us. We’d all been stuck—for the most part—inside as the rain beat down. I remember sitting on the musty old couch given to us by someone’s brother or something. I don’t really remember deciding that we needed to leave the house, but I remember heading out the door with the guys.
The rain had lightened up. There was still a misting coming down from the clouds above, but it wasn’t the downpour it had been. Our destination was, honestly, the worst place to go when it’s been raining so heavily.
We lived within a ten minute walking distance to one of the largest parks in the city. The ground was springy and, in some places, made you sink into mud. The cars splashed water at regular intervals. And everything was covered in a layer of fresh rain. But we trekked out to the park; the only thing in our minds was getting out of the house.
At the park we hesitated. What can you do in an abandoned public park after heavy rains while it was still soaked through? We hung out near the playground, trying the swings out. There was no climbing trees or stomping through the woods. Even the creek was probably dangerous to get near. And there was certainly zero chance of bumping into any other friends—there was only the occasional runner or dog walker in the entire park. It was eerily quiet, with not even cars wanting to drive through the bleakness.
Not much to do.
Instead, we just played on the jungle gym. We pretended it was a starship and we were the crew. The steering wheel was the cockpit, the lower tier was the engine room, the upper tier the gunner’s seat.
Perhaps it was the freedom of leaving the house, the complete destruction of the creeping cabin fever, or maybe it was simply that we were ourselves out in the world, but there we were, four twenty-something year old men playing on a jungle gym.
We argued over who was the captain or who got to pilot; we made up enemies and shouted out surprise attacks from the aft of our ship; we were nearly shot at, and nearly lost a crew member; we had to pull together to fix the warp drive in time; we jumped from the top, splashing our way across the outside of the ship; we spun the steering wheel, flinging water out in an arc; we were big kids for an afternoon.
At some point, a middle-aged Japanese man in a poncho wandered by. Intrigued he stopped and watched us. We gave small waves of acknowledgement, but kept pretending at full speed. As he viewed us as if we were professional actors in a play, he smiled a wide smile and gave small chuckles as our ship took a shot to the port side, knocking us sideways.
Some time later (it’s hard to say how long, but probably half an hour) we cooled down, somewhat bored now and realizing that our story had no plot and could therefore go on forever if we didn’t stop it. I looked back at the guys from behind the wheel and said, “All right,” in a tired way. They loosened up too and we decided to head back home.
The Japanese man, understanding that we were done, applauded loudly for us, still laughing his friendly laugh and nodded enthusiastically. We gave quick, theatrical bows and left, still grinning at ourselves.
I don’t go out much anymore. I live on the other side of town from most of my friends and we’ve all begun to split apart into other groups of friends. Seven or so years later, I find it hard to bring myself to use my imagination like that day in the light rain at the park.
Whenever the rain lets up after days of downpour, however, I think about those times at the Aquarium with the guys doing weird and dumb stuff, back when life was easier and we were all still just big kids.