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At the End of the Rainbow

“I’ve got a better name for it,” I said, “The Rainbow Season!”

My friend Sharron and I were having lunch at a downtown Ventura restaurant. It was one of those days Southern Californians are hardly ever found of: chilly, gloomy, rainy, February, a Rainy Season kind of day.

Having been raised in Illinois, she has always disliked referring to the time around January, February and March here in California as the Rainy Season, because the rain here rarely includes thunder, lightning, hail, and blinding downpours. She also doesn’t care much for the phrase, “June Gloom,” or any other phrase or label that detracts from the idea that this area is anything less than refreshing, bright and lively.

 “You know how in the Midwest,” I said (I also grew up in the Chicago area); “the rainbows almost always seem to be far away? You could drive for miles, but never seem to get closer to one. Here the rainbows seem to be much more intimate and personal.

“I’ve seen at least three I thought I could touch.

“About a year ago on a rainy day I went to the Mall. It was drizzling and there was finally a little sunshine. As I waited at the light at the Mall’s First Street entrance I saw a rainbow. The end of it was actually touching the ground not more than twenty feet from me. No, there wasn’t a pot of gold, but the rainbow arched up across the sky. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything as beautiful. I wanted to see if I could stand in it, but there was no place to safely park the car. It was gone by the time I found a parking space at the Mall.”

“I saw one like that on the 118” Sharron said. “You’re right they do seem much closer here. It was about a month ago. As I came around a curve up by Rocky Peak, it was right there. Just like you say, I thought if I could stop the car and climb down the hill, I could touch it. Three or four cars pulled over, probably to take pictures. I could see the colors on the purple edge and there were different shades of purple turning into blue. As I went down the hill it slowly faded away. You said you’ve seen three of them?”

“Yes, since I’ve been here. The second one was a few weeks ago on the 101 between Ventura and Camarillo. It was a complete, gorgeous arch completely across the highway. Each color was bright and distinct.

“The third was just a couple days ago. This one was sort of in pieces along Foothill road in Ventura. First one part seemed to grow out of the ocean on my left, then the second half was bouncing off the hillsides on my right. The colors were painting the ground, dancing on the plants, bushes and brush. Again, I thought I could touch it. I should have tried because by the time I got to the bottom of the hills it was gone.”

A year passed and I hadn’t seen another rainbow. In fact, I’d completely forgotten about them until the day Sharron decided to try to touch one. We were on our way to lunch in Thousand Oaks. It was the third rainy day in a row and it changed our plans to hike somewhere in the Santa Monica mountains. I was making my way up Moorpark Road, negotiating a bit of the highway that meanders up through a hillside pass. I was concentrating on my driving when Sharron said, “There’s a rainbow.”

“Where?”

“You’ll see it after the curve.”

It exploded into view around the curve, beautiful, stretching from far to the left and touching down almost immediately on our right. It was almost exactly like the rainbows we talked about a year before. The colors seemed to surround every leaf, every branch of the brush by the side of the road.

“Stop! Stop the car,” Sharron shouted. “I want to see if I can stand in it.”

I parked and she jumped out, running to the rainbow. I was amazed. The colors wrapped around her!

“Can you see me? Can you see me?” she shouted as she laughed and started dancing around.

I think she was the happiest I had seen her in years. She was hopping and spinning around. A couple other cars drove by, slowing down a moment before going on. Then I remembered my cell phone. I got it to take a picture. I waited until she was facing me. That’s when the rainbow started fading.

“Look at me, Sharron,” I shouted.

Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion. The rainbow was fading, Sharron was turning toward me and I was pushing the button on my cell phone. As the camera clicked, the rainbow disappeared and Sharron with it. I looked around thinking she might have fallen or moved suddenly, but she was gone. There was no sign of her. I could still see her footprints in the mud, but that was all that was left of her.

Of course I reported her disappearance to the police, her family and the people she worked with. They thought I was crazy. For the next few weeks every time the phone rang I expected it to be her, but it never was. I checked her apartment expecting to see some sign that she was there, but the dust collected and nothing changed. When the eviction notice came I moved all her things and stored in my spare bedroom.

That was four years ago. The police eventually stopped questioning me. Sharron’s family won’t talk to me. Every year during rainbow season now, I spend as much time as I can driving around looking for rainbows, especially the places where they touch the ground, hoping to see a girl with red hair dancing there.