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Soaked in Courage: Red's Rain Check

Hey y'all, name's Red. Short for "Ready to face my fears, even if it's one raindrop at a time." Yeah, it's a bit extra, but aren't we all?

Alright, check this: I'm gonna rip off the Band-Aid—I'm ombrophobic. Yeah, sounds like some extraterrestrial mumbo jumbo, huh? But nah, it just means rain scares the bejesus outta me. Every single drop. Man, it's like alien probes drenching me in fear, washing away my cool and making me the lone wolf cheering on this never-ending sunshine. Got it? Good.

Why aliens? Blame it on my dad, a true X-Files and Twilight Zone fanatic. He was all about the extraterrestrial life, the "truth is out there" kinda dude. When he passed, I got his collection of sci-fi DVDs and his knack for imagining the uunimaginable. Thanks Daddy.

To understand my phobia, I gotta bring you back to one freakified night that still haunts me...

It was Halloween night, about 8 years and 31 days ago. I was just a shorty heading to Nana Little's place to get my trick-or-treat on with her and Grandfather. The day was darker than triple fudge brownies, like midnight ate the sun.

Everyone was on high spook alert—imagination running wilder than a pack of werewolves. Mine was no exception.

I stepped into the elevator of Nana and Grandfather's building, holding my neon green and hot pink alien decorated candy sack. Red Twizzlers, Reese's cups, and Jolly Ranchers jutted out the top, practically fist-bumping me with their aroma while I waited.

The doors creaked open wide, grinning like some twisted jack-o-lantern, and right then, I got major heebie-jeebies. I stepped in mad skeptical but nothing could prepare me for the what would happen next.

Shadows played tricks on my eyes, morphing into some straight-up nightmare fuel. The lights were flickering, sending out SOS signals like they were auditioning for a horror movie.

My thumb jammed the "door open" button, but nah, too late. I was boxed into this haunted metal cage. My heart was pounding like a bass drop in a trap song, fast and frenzied. This was about to be one wild ride...

And then, like a beat drop nobody asked for—BAM! Thunder rattled the elevator like it was a subwoofer. Each bang felt like a giant was using the building as a bongo. In the flickering light, those shifting shadows turned into creepy alien eyes, fingers all elongated, ready to snatch me up.

Then, as if cued by some cosmic DJ, a leak popped in the ceiling, dripping right above my head. I jumped back, but not before my candy sack caught in the door ripped open, scattering Reese's, Twizzlers, and rainbow Skittles like confetti at the world's worst party.

So there you have it. My introduction to a lifetime subscription to Fear dot com and let me tell you, the reviews are terrible.

Rain was my new enemy and I never tricked for a treat again. My grandfather found me huddled in the corner of the elevator that day. He dried me off but the fear of water falling from the sky was here to stay.

But let's not get it twisted. I'm not a nervous nilly. I'm the backbone and right rib of my family. My mom's got this spinal condition that keeps her in a wheelchair, and I've been her legs since I was twelve. Then when my dad died, well, let's just say I became the man of the house at a not-so-manly age.

So, it's no "tiny ting" when Mom tells me, "Red, Nana Little needs water. She ran out, and this heat wave is hitting her building hard. So many old people live over there."

My mind races, already imagining how the day could go down—badly. But she plays her trump card: "You know your grandfather would want you to do it. He definitely would say he faced worse suns than this in Haiti."

Oof. My grandfather, another pillar of my life, died in a storm while saving a neighbor. Another reason I don't do rain. He's a literal hero in my eyes, wrapped forever in a red bandana, which I now wear on my wrist as a tribute and reminder. "Fine," I say, "I'll go."

The bag of icy water bottles clings to my back like an igloo trying to freeze me in place. Each step out of the elevator feels like I'm walking deeper into a predator's lair. Then, right on cue, they appear—Ricky and his goon squad, the sketchy boys who roam my floor like they own it.

"Hey Red," sneers the one with teeth so yellow they could double as traffic lights. "Be careful out there."

I feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, as if each follicle is screaming "Danger!"

"Who's watching?" I shoot back, trying to keep my voice steady, but it trembles anyway, betraying me.

He leans in, so close I can smell the stale chips and soda on his breath. His eyes narrow, turning into tiny slits. "Not who, Red. What. Boo!"

My heart goes from zero to a hundred real quick. It feels like it's about to punch its way out of my chest. I bolt, leaving Ricky and his creepy crew in a blur.

In that split second, I wonder if they know how they're toying with my anxiety, or if they even care. But that thought gets shoved to the back of my mind. I've got bigger problems now. I hate it when people mess with others' heads, not thinking about the aftershocks they send rippling through someone else's life. Urgh!

I finally reach Nana's fortress-like building

in the center of the cold concrete jungle. Just as I'm about to punch in the security code, the first raindrop falls—plop—right on the back of my hand. My eyes dart up to the sky, dark clouds gathering like they're plotting against me. More drops follow, quickening in pace, each one like a mini-explosion on the ground.

"Ah, hell no," I mutter, my hands trembling. Rain's got this way of messing with my head, like it's got a remote control to my nerves. I key in the first two numbers, then pause. Was it 0-2 or 2-0 at the end? The rain intensifies, pelting against my skin like little icy needles. My heart's racing, pounding in my ears louder than the rain on the pavement.

"Come on, Red, think!" I mumble, wiping my wet face with the back of my hand. I take a deep, shaky breath. "Okay, okay, 2-3-0-2. That's it." I punch in the numbers, praying I got it right this time. The door creaks open, its rusty hinges singing a brief song of victory. I'm in.

The stairwell hits me with a nose-burning cocktail of urine and bleach, like it's some demonic Febreze made to ward off visitors. Ain't no U-turns on this road, though. I bolt up them steps, taking 'em two at a time, each one a slap in the face to my fears. Forget the elevator—it's like stepping into Satan's VIP lounge, and I ain't on the guest list.

Nana's door is wide open, and my nerves are on high alert—fist clenched like I'm stepping into a ring with Mike Tyson. I tip-toe inside, cautious but ready.

That's when I spot her, swaying in a dim-lit room, muttering words that sound like an ancient incantation. For a gut-wrenching second, I think, "Did the aliens finally get to Nana?" But nah, she's just deep in her hallelujah-filled prayers. "Sometimes, baby, you gotta talk to God like He's right there in the room with you," she says, sensing my entrance and probably my skyrocketing anxiety.

I exhale, handing her a bottle of icy water. "We all need a little faith, Red," Nana says, taking a grateful sip. "Especially when it feels like the sky's about to collapse on us," she smiles, and I swear it's like the room just got a little brighter.

As I place the remaining water bottles on her kitchen counter, my eyes wander to the oven. Inside is a dish of baked mac and cheese, its top layer golden and crispy, almost glowing. The scent hits me—pure comfort—and my stomach hums a soulful tune.

Nana catches my gaze and chuckles. "Ah, see you eyeing my world-famous mac and cheese, huh? You hungry?" Before she can even finish, I've got a plate out from the cabinet.

"Life's a lot like this dish, you know," Nana says, scooping up a cheesy, gooey spoonful.

"How so?" I ask, genuinely curious.

She leans in, eyes twinkling like she's about to share the secret of the universe. "You gotta cut through the crust sometimes to get to the good stuff, baby. And when you do, oh—it's nothing short of heavenly." We both laugh, the sound as warm as the cheese oozing off the spatula.

I spend the rest of my time with Nana, talking about Grandfather and Dad. How does she keep it together, losing her husband and her son? She must have a bottomless well of faith, something I realize I've been running low on. Looks like it's time for seconds.

As always, Nana sends me off with a prayer and anoints me with "Bless Oil." "Your grandfather prayed over this very bottle before he passed," she whispers. Her words settle deep in my soul, and I feel an indescribable calm wash over me, like a storm say good bye to leave a baby blue sky.

As I step out of Nana's building, my feet freeze in place. The sky's gone mad, spinning with an army of raindrops that flood the streets. Lightning zigzags like electric veins, and thunder detonates like heavenly grenades. BOOM!

That's when Dad's words resurface in my mind: "Red, we fear what we don't understand." And just like that, it clicks. I've been trapped in a never-ending episode of 'The Twilight Zone,' where the demon I've been running from is just—rain.

Taking a deep breath, I step into the storm. The first drop hits me—plop! It feels like an icy missile, a bullet made of water. But then, with a deep breath, I remember Nana's words, "We all need faith," and I feel the red bandana tied around my wrist, Grandfather's legacy of courage.

I remember Dad, his boundless curiosity about the universe, how he taught me not to let fear dictate the chapters of my life. And so, I decide not to. "When fear knocks, let courage answer the door," Red whispers to herself.

I don't run. I don't hide. I dance. I dance like I'm in a breakdancing battle, and the rain is my opponent, my partner, my judge. Every drop that lands on me feels like it's washing away a layer of my old self, stripping away years of fear and uncertainty. I realize it's not that the fear has vanished; it's that, for the first time, I'm not letting it write my story.

When I burst through the door, dripping but glowing, Mom's eyebrows do a little dance. "Red, you walked in the rain?"

"Walked, danced, splashed—you name it, Ma," I beam, my voice oozing victory. "I didn't just take a rain check on fear, I checked that rain. In it's face. BAM!"

Mom chuckles, barely keeping it together. "So you're soaked, huh?"

"Literally soaked, Mom. Soaked in courage," I say, my laughter filling the room like a melody.

Her eyes soften, mirroring the leftover raindrops on my jacket. "Your dad and grandfather would be giving you a standing ovation right now, Red."

Let's get one thing straight: facing down your fears isn't some one-time showdown. Post-rain dance, I got myself some professional help for my phobia. If fear's got you in a headlock, get that help. Courage is dope, but it's not the full recipe—you need some expert seasoning in there. So here I am, still navigating life's puddles, training wheels and all. Thanks for vibing with my story.

Curosity Corner

How to Engage with Curiosity Corner

Feel free to answer these questions to reflect on the story's themes and messages. Share your insights in the comments and let's get a conversation going!

  1. Ever felt your fears spiral out of control like Red? Share your story.

  2. Red's mom drops the "Grandfather card" to get her moving. Manipulative or fair game?

  3. Got a life-changing "dance in the rain" moment? What flipped the switch for you?

  4. Would you hit up a pro if fear was messing with your life? Why or why not?

  5. Red learns that courage sometimes needs training wheels. Agree or disagree? Why?

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