The rain comes sideways across the hospital car park. The windscreen wipers struggle to clear a view; red and white and blue lights are blurred through water and glass. Pulling up at the car park barrier, opening the window brings a cold slap from the wind and spray across the dashboard.
Thus far it has been easy, stepping out of the car brings a buffeting from the gusts and stinging rainfall in the face. To walk invites being soaked by the rain, to run means the splash of puddles and soaking feet. Running wins out and the hospital door is reached.
‘Is it raining?’ asks a lady in the ward.
‘A bit of a shower’.
Later, the radio captures the mood of a bitter January night, when rain and storm and darkness combine to impress the message that the Christmas season is past and that the real business of winter has yet to begin. ‘A rainy night in Georgia’ is played.
It is a song that has always been there – a soulful accompaniment to moments that have been less than happy, moments when it seems that it is raining all over the world. ‘Neon signs a-flashin’, taxi cabs and buses passin’ through the night’ could describe any town on a winter’s night when the only thing for which anyone would wish is to be home and dry. Who would choose to be out on such a night? Who would go anywhere?
The song tells of one who has nowhere to go. He takes refuge in a boxcar and plays the guitar he carries to pass the time. It is a moment of desolation and realisation,
How many times I wondered
It still comes out the same
No matter how you look at it or think of it
It’s life and you just got to play the game.
‘Play the game’, it is a sentiment echoed by Tom Stoppard in ‘Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead‘, ‘Life is a gamble, at terrible odds – if it was a bet you wouldn’t take it’.
Still cold from the soaking, the gale has grown stronger on the return journey, gusts threatening to push the car across the road. The forecourt of a service station offers respite from the storm. The weary checkout operator stares into a middle distance, barely with energy enough to engage with those who pay. How long has her shift been? What is it like back in her home in Eastern Europe that she stands here on a January night?
Such a rainy night.