May May Be More Cruel

Asking for a friend: 

If you have tickets to the ballgame, but cannot go, is it wrong to cheer for rain?

You see, I was not feeling well. Head and stomach ache… I know my symptoms are of no interest. Everyone has got their own. I was looking out the window, peering through my own frowning reflection, at the trees bending under the cold breeze and the grey sky spitting rain, and I thought: It looks miserable out there, it looks how I feel… good.

If life were a poem—and it is—then this would be an instance of what T.S. Eliot calls an “objective correlative.” When some object in the world outside correlates with your inner world, with your thoughts, feelings, or spirit. The simple description of the correlative object expresses better than any explanation. Explaining that weather looked as miserable as I felt is less evocative than saying, as Eliot did in “The Wasteland,” that: 

April is the cruellest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring

Dull roots with spring rain.

Except that it was May already, and May flowers ought to follow April showers (to quote another poem) and it was still raining, which only shows T.S. Eliot that May can be more cruel.

And to give my trope an extra turn. I had tickets to that night’s game, the first game of this year’s “Crosstown Classic” between the Cubs and the White Sox. I had been really looking forward to this series. Cubs versus Sox is always a highlight of the summer. The rivalry brings out the best, and the worst, well let’s say, brings out the most from both teams and their fans. In the stands, there is a mercilessness to the banter and an edge to the ribbing. 

This year especially ought to have been good. The Sox are contenders and arrogant in their excellent roster. A complete team with good players, I do want to see them play well and win, whenever they’re not playing against the Cubs. The Cubs, though humbled after trading off their 2016 World Series heroes to rebuild, have a dugout full of promising rookies and recent call ups and proud journeymen veterans who are easy to cheer for.

Yet neither team had been winning much lately. The Cubs’ offense had been surprisingly productive but they had somehow managed to lose a lot of close games. The White Sox, on the other hand, had been sloppy in the field, unfocused, and failing to play up their level of talent. In other words, the Cubs could win! Which would be an upset. Which would be wonderful. Moreover, because everyone expected the Cubs to lose, we Cubs fans would be under no pressure. The Cubs could play the spoiler. If the Cubs did lose, we could just shrug: a contender is supposed to beat a team rebuilding its roster. It was not quite win-win, more like, win-can’t lose. I wanted to go to the game.

But I was feeling ill, chilled. I really ought to stay home. I looked out the window and noted how the weather reflected how I felt, but also noted that there was a part of me that wished the weather would get worse rather than better. I wanted a postponement of the series at least until I could go.

There’s a through line of selfishness here. First, I was not rooting that the best team win, but that the home team, win. Second, I was cheering for rain, that the whole game be postponed for my benefit, to better suite my schedule. What poetic image expresses such feelings? I needed a moral correlative, or was it an immoral correlative?

A crow cawed from the stooped trees. His gleefully mocking call, like his somber silhouette, perfectly suited this grey day. I observed my own smile reflected in the rain-spattered window.

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