The winds pluck at the ribs and at the folds of nylon and the whole thing quivers and strains for a moment before the tension lessens again.
A light but giving grip and some attention paid to the waning and waxing breeze keeps it trembling in your hand.
Elation takes you by surprise.
You've finally found it.
The archetypically shitty umbrella.
The triumph after so many years seeking in the dreary rains of New York City is a glowing warmth inside.
How long has it been since that night when she ran out of your apartment? And then, there you were, running after her trying to get her to come back inside to talk it over. How long since you shoved ten dollars into the hand of a street vendor and popped the first shitty umbrella? Years. Three or four? Three.
The dance of that particular artifact in your hand as the drizzle fell into the streets was less subtle, it's resonance with the situation more obvious to your cold fingers.
She turns and looks and the expressions on her face seem to be linked to the strings of your heart and then to the tips of the umbrella. Hope and despair, loft and lull.
She turns and leaves, entreaties to stay ignored, and the umbrella eviscerates itself as you watch her back disappear down the subway steps. The wind had become too much for the white fingered grip with which you held on. Rain drips down your neck.
The second shitty umbrella held you on a mad dash to a job interview. Emerging from a delayed-due-to-fire subway car and jogging up and across town the rain began in earnest. Another bill pressed into the hand of the dealer and another piece of shelter acquired, a sliver of civilization purchased. You arrive with acceptably mussed hair and clothing and within the margin of error for on time. "Just put that down there" You look at the flimsy device with thanks as it sits on the ground, making their carpet damper by the second. You go into the office shaking the hand of someone you can't remember a single detail about today other than that they had hands and you shook them. The interview is a disaster through no fault of the umbrella but when you leave someone has taken it. But on the other hand it has stopped raining.
More or less perfect examples you've held over the years in more or less desperate moments have taught you there is a deep magic in these shitty umbrellas. If the moment is important they will hold long enough for the moment to fully occur. To completely happen. They hold back the rain just enough, keep the path just clear enough. As long as your touch is light and your heart is running true.
You've had them collapse on you utterly too of course. Most memorably while badly lying, trying to claim that you did love her, when you both know you didn't. There is an exasperated tone you use when you know you're lying but think you are blustering through it. Getting away with it. That tone of voice is now anchored completely to the feeling of a shitty umbrella turning itself inside out on Bleecker street at 9pm in the freezing rain.
The umbrellas have a sensitivity to your life, seeming stronger at the moments when you're weakest and most in need. When things are spiraling they even it out somehow. Some weird link from the dancing canopy to your brain that transcends the grip of your hand on the metal and plastic. Their timing is impeccable too, they always seem to last however long the crisis that precipitated them requires. Your ability to manage them in the wind and your needs and their unlikely strength harmonizing in some way that goes beyond simple explanations.
All these umbrellas have left you one way or another. None survive to come home. Once you'd gotten within a block of your apartment with one That was still going strong in a surprise summer deluge. Your theory of the shitty umbrella was still forming at the time but you remember being surprised at getting that far. Ahh. But Then there was the girl. Little black dress, strappy heels, small bag held over the head in the doorway. Looking utterly dismayed, a glance back in the direction of her apartment and then at the subway entrance a few blocks away. You wordlessly hand her the umbrella and she takes it, wide eyed,nwordless. You hear the clack of her heels on the concrete and then a faint "um, thankyou!" And then It makes sense. That shitty umbrella wasn't for you.
Others were for you. Companions On the way to and fro in this city. Friends in Moments of need.
Mmm but This one though. This could be the one that gets all the way. You aren't heading anywhere though, not this time. You've Returned to the city on a visit after too long away. Content to walk the dreary winter streets and take in the pulse of the place. To be utterly in the flow of the center of the world. But... It was raining a little too much for comfort and you've made the transaction again, familiar after these dozens of times. One overpriced umbrella from a street vendor that has appeared from nowhere. One magic item please, one piece of protection from the rain gods, one black nylon future litter stick, one slice of home sweet dreary home.
One moment of perfection against the maelstrom.
One bubble of stolen time, of unlikely comfort.
Maybe this one will last.