Empty

Like clouds and wind without rain is one who boasts of gifts never given.  

A heavy, cool breeze crept in through three open windows, snuck around the corner, and slipped through the open door, brushing by the girl at her desk.  The sky rumbled ominously.  She looked up and scrunched her eyes at the windows.  No rain – at least not yet.  She pulled her scarf down around her elbows and tightly over her shoulders.  Again, a loud crack and roll of thunder.  From outside and three floors below came the sound of children’s voices.  Classes had just been released.  It was time to gather backpacks and homework and PE clothes and library books, board the buses, and head home.  Normally the sounds were free and cheerful, but the dark clouds and grumbling sky had about the same effect as a bomb threat.  The voices were loud, nervous, and clearly in a hurry to get home before getting drenched.  A few scattered drops sped up the restrained chaos.

The girl closed her computer firmly and rummaged for some loose change in her bag.  Lunch could not wait much longer.  The only places to eat were outdoors and it was certain to get chilly.  Hopefully she would beat the heavy rain.  She grabbed her umbrella just in case.

Walking across campus, it seemed to her that the world was only half wet.  Parts of the pavement glistened, while others seemed to have rejected the damp – soaking it up quickly or throwing it back to the breeze.  The sky sputtered and the breeze spat, but no real rain.

The staff canteen was an open air affair: an undersized kitchen and a covered out-door space with plastic tables squeezed in the back corner of the main campus parking lot.  The eating area was open on two sides.  One side faced the edge of the upper playing fields and the other, the parking lot.  On the other two sides: small buildings, one for the kitchen and the other for storage.  Early in the year, someone in the administration had ordered small bushes and grass to be planted in the square of ground that separated the covered area from the parking.  It softened the undervalued feel of the space, but did not erase it.

Most of the food was gone by the time she arrived; a natural hazard on days when she taught classes back to back.  She sat in quiet at a plastic table with a plate of beans and ugali watching the empty green fields.  At other tables, a few staff chatted freely in Swahili.  She tried to tune into the conversation, but her tired brain fell behind and she went back to watching the fields.  In the sky, the light and dark clouds waged a territorial war that could be heard every few minutes.  But where was the rain?  Still the breeze sputtered while the clouds roared.  She wished for a moment that the clouds would let loose – that the two greys would fight hard enough to produce something useful.  If it poured, she would sit and enjoy the moment; she would be late to her meeting and it would be okay.  But it didn’t.

Reluctantly, she sipped the last of her soda, got up, and dropped her plate in the dirty-dish bin.  She paused and considered her umbrella.  Though she didn’t need it, she opened it anyway in sardonic disregard of the fruitless war above her head, and scuttled off to her meeting.

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