Waiting for the end of the world

Waiting for the end of the world

Gibbon doesn’t specify that it was raining the day that Odoacer entered Rome, so I don’t know where that image comes from. I imagine the great city battered by the centuries of instability and still bearing fresh scars from Riciner’s sacking. The walls of Rome are dark and gray, not the gleaming white of Marcus Aurelius’ capital, but with dirt accumulated after long periods of violence and neglect. The sky overhead is dark and mean, and the Tiber has long ago become a vein of pollution. Despite its wounds, though, the city still wears its majesty. It is no longer the capital of anything: Constantinople commands the greater portion of the Empire; of the two competing Emperors of the West, one, Romulus Augustulus, lives in Ravenna, and the other, Julius Nepos, is in exile in Dalmatia.

Make no mistake, though: Rome has stood as the light of the west for a thousand years, and even in degradation it is proud. I imagine then this beleaguered city under a a thick layer of dark clouds, surrounded on all sides by the enormous and terrifying army of Odoacer. Romulus has been deposed, and the barbarians await their leader to enter and proclaim himself King of Italy, and the end of the Western Roman Empire.

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Rainy season has arrived in Kampala, later than expected but, according to a climate-change expert I know, not outside the range of historical norms.

The rain slows my Internet, muddies my carpets, makes everything cold and generally bums me out. True, it does also make flowers bloom and whatnot. But right now I’m cold and blue. No flowers are going to fix that.

One summer in Brooklyn I remember it rained every day for a month. When the skies finally cleared I said I hoped I never had to experience rain again; a few months later I moved to the Gobi Desert.

It’s been years since that near-Biblical Summer of Rain in New York, and since them I’ve lived in plenty of rainy places. But still, I don’t like it.

I don’t know if I’m actually depressed or jus sad about a lot of things. I know that people who have experienced real depression can tell that there’s a difference right away, but if you’ve never actually experienced the more serious condition–or if you’re not sure–then it’s hard to tell.

There was a time once when people would ask me, “How are you today?” and I’d always answer “I’m always good.” It was sort of my catchphrase for a year or two. (When I lived in Italy it became “Sempre bene,” which sounds great with a little half-shrug and a smile.) One day, probably around the time of that epic rain-summer, I stopped answering the question that way, and it never came back.

I remember it, though. I want to get back to it somehow. I can’t just say it, though. I need to figure out how to make it so. Then the words will come back naturally. I just don’t know how. My life is good, and while I could complain I know that it’s churlish to do so because, basically, I’m doing all right. But I can’t say I’m always good, or even usually good. I’m good enough, I guess.

Except for the rain.