Return to Hippyland
Flowers and Rain
Rain and I had lived together in Haight-Ashbury since I was about seventeen. When I had run away from my comfortable home to escape the conformism of my small Pennsylvania town, I had landed in San Francisco without food or a place to stay. Luckily for me, Rain had picked me up after only a few hours on the streets.I was walking down some street, scared out of my wits, when this brightly painted van pulled up next to me.
“Hey,” said a deep voice. I jumped and turned to look at the boy who was talking to me. He was a few years older than me, maybe nineteen. He had long dark hair and eyes hidden behind a pair of round sun-glasses. “Hey! Yeah...you. You need a place to crash?”
Timidly I answered, “Yeah...yeah, I guess.” I was so frightened I didn’t know what else to say.
“Listen, me and some of my friends have a pad over in Haight-Ashbury across town, you dig? I’m heading there now, so hop in.” The handsome young man motioned for me to get into the van. “I’m Rain, who’re you?”
“I’m Orchid.” I said casually, trying to act cool. I wanted to seem at ease in front of this handsome stranger.
“Groovy...” he said as he flashed a grin at me and then turned his attention back to the wheel. ***
When we got to his apartment, Rain introduced me to his three roommates.
“Orchid, this is Thistle. Thistle this is my friend, Orchid.” Thistle was tall, around twenty with shaggy red hair. He regarded me over the rims of his sunglasses.
“Friend or chick?” He asked casually, looking me up and down. I blushed a little.
“C’mon, Thistle, leave the kid alone.” A pretty, black haired woman turned to face me, “Don’t mind Thistle. I’m Petal, and this is Frost,” she said, gesturing to the tall man sitting next to her. She stood up, “Well, welcome to our humble abode. Glad to have you here. Since Wind moved out, it’s seemed real empty.” Frost looked at Petal and nodded.
“Yeah, it’ll be groovy to have some more company,” he said. Then he turned to Thistle and they started discussing something quietly with Rain.
Petal turned to me, “Orchid, you look beat. C’mon, I’ll show you a room where you can crash for tonight.”
I smiled at Petal gratefully. “Yeah, I am beat,” I said and followed her down the hallway. The room she led me to was small with one bed. It was decorated brightly with posters and a few peace-signs painted on the walls. A large tye-dyed sheet covered one wall and the hard wood floor was covered in various mats.
“You can stay here tonight. Wind used to sleep here until he moved out a few months ago. He got drafted.” Petal gazed out the window blankly and shook her head. “Anyway, you can stay here as long as you want. You’ll always be welcome. Well, I’ll let you get to sleep. See you in the mornin.’” ***
For the first few weeks, I was a little homesick, but I quickly got used to the lifestyle of the hippies and fit in pretty well. Petal took me under her wing and showed me around Haight-Ashbury. Over the next few years, Rain and I became close, too, but in a different way. Then something happened that changed everything.
“Hey! Rain! There’s a letter here for you.” Petal’s voice rang through the apartment. I glanced over at Rain who was asleep on the sofa next to me. The door slammed as Petal left to hand out flowers somewhere in the city.
I nudged him gently, “Hey, Rain. Wake up, love.” He smiled, but didn’t open his eyes. I laughed and got up to look at the letter.
It was addressed to William Smith, which was Rain’s real name. My heartbeat got faster as I looked at the return address. It was from the Draft Board.
“Rain, wake up.” All traces of humor were gone from my voice. “Rain.” He heard the urgency in my voice and got up.
“What is it, baby?” He asked, standing close at my side, blinking his eyes sleepily.
I turned to him with fear in my eyes. “I think you’ve been drafted.”
Well, that woke him up fast. “Don’t just stand there, open the letter.” He took the envelope from me and ripped it open. His soft brown eyes scanned the page quickly. He crumpled up the letter.
“There is no way they’re sending me to be slaughtered in ‘Nam. They got Wind and he died out there! It’s a stupid war this country shouldn’t have gotten into in the first place. Those fat old men sitting in the White House started this whole thing. They’re the ones who should be fighting and dying because of it, not us!” His eyes blazed with anger.
Thistle walked in the door and saw the crumpled letter on the table and the worried expression on my face. He looked at Rain inquisitively.
“I got drafted,” he said flatly.
“Wow, man, tough break. Whatcha gonna do about it?”
“I don’t know. I just don’t know yet...” Rain stared at the floor and then walked off to his room.
“Man, he’s in a bind,” breathed Thistle.
“I know. If he leaves, or if something happens to him...I gotta go find Petal.”
“I think she’s hanging out on Fishermen’s Wharf, handing out flowers.”
I hopped into the van and headed for the Wharf. All I could think about was what could happen to Rain. If he left, I didn’t know what I was going to do. We were connected. I couldn’t imagine my life without him.
As soon as I got to Fishermen’s Wharf, I spotted Petal. She was standing on the corner, holding a bundle of flowers. As people passed, she handed them flowers. When the van pulled up, she hopped in.
“Hey, Orchid, what’s up?” she asked.
“Rain got drafted...” I whispered and burst into tears.
“Oh Orchid...I’m so sorry. I’m sure Rain’ll think of some way out of it.” Petal hugged me and stroked my hair.
“If Rain goes to ‘Nam, I’ll never see him again! He could die! If anything happens to him, I’ll die!” I sobbed.
“Hush...shhh...everything’s gonna be okay. Maybe he’ll go to Canada like Storm did when he was drafted.” Storm was a friend of ours who had been drafted earlier that year.
I sniffled and looked at Petal. “I hadn’t thought of that. That idea’s outa sight!” I wiped my face on my sleeve to dry my tears. “I wanna go back now to tell Rain your idea. You gonna come, or you gonna keep handing out flowers?”
“I better go back with you. This is a big thing and the whole building’s gonna be torn up about it. Here, I’ll drive; you might start crying again and get us both killed.” Petal grinned at me and took the wheel. When we got back to the apartment, I went to Rain’s room.
“Hey, love. Petal had a great idea.” I sat down on the bed next to him and reached over to hold his hand. “Remember how Storm headed for Canada when they were gonna draft him? Well maybe you can do the same. It’s better than getting caught up in this stupid war.”
Rain looked up at me from where he was laying. He smiled, “You know, I hadn’t thought of that.” He sat up and ran his fingers through his hair. “Yeah...yeah! That’s so groovy! I’m gonna go tell the others. You’re wonderful! I love you, Orchid,” he and then kissed me quickly.
“I love you, too, Rain,” I said as he went to tell our friends. ***
It was decided that Rain would leave the next week. All of us in the apartment building pooled our money to buy a van for him to drive up to Canada. The night before he left, he came to my room.
“I’ve been thinking, Orchid. I love you and I don’t want to leave you here. Come to Canada with me!” His eyes danced with excitement. “We can get a little cabin in the woods and live off Mother Nature. We’ll have a hand-fasting ceremony here before we leave. Petal and Thistle and Frost will be there and I talked to Sunshine and she said that she’d do the ceremony...so what do you think?”
I couldn’t think of anything to say, so I just kissed him.
A little while later we went to tell everyone.
“Hey! Guys! We’re getting married. Sunshine’s gonna do a hand-fasting for us tomorrow morning at dawn,” I said looking up into Rain’s eyes. It was going to be so perfect. I knew that I would love him forever.
“That’s so groovy!” shouted Petal as she ran to give both Rain and me a hug. “I’m so happy for you both!”
“That’s outa sight, congrats, man!” Thistle gave Rain a hug and so did Frost.
We all talked until around midnight that night, when Petal, who was always the responsible one, decided that Rain and I would actually need to get some sleep that night.
“After all, you two do have to be up before dawn,” she had said. ***
The next morning, Petal woke me up early. I washed my hair and put on a loose white gauze dress. She braided my hair and wove flowers into it. They were fragrant white blossoms with soft petals. I took one of them and pressed it in my diary so I would always remember that day. The ceremony was going to be held at Golden Gate Park near one of the waterfalls. We got there about half an hour before dawn.
“I’m so happy for you and Rain. Me and Frost have been talking about getting married, too. I wish it could be so that you could be there. I’m going to miss you a lot when you’re in Canada.” Petal smiled sadly. “I know that this is what’s best for both you and Rain. I love you two like you were my family.” A tear ran down her face.
“I wish that we didn’t have to go to Canada. Maybe after the war’s over we’ll come back. Don’t cry. We’ll stay in touch. I promise,” I said as I squeezed her hand. “You and Frost have each other. I’ll always be your friend. I remember when I first got here, how you were so nice to me. I was so scared, and you were cool enough to watch out for me. I love you more than any sister I ever could have had,” I said as I hugged Petal.
“The sun’s gonna rise in not too much longer. We better get to the waterfall.” Petal sniffled once and then we headed for the falls.
Rain, Thistle, and Frost were there when we got to the waterfall. Thistle was tuning his guitar and smiled at me when he saw me. Sunshine was making a circle on the grass in white rose petals. She looked up when we got there.
She looked up at the sky. “The sun is about to rise, we’re gonna start.” She signaled Thistle to start playing his guitar. The soft chords blended with the morning mist. Sunshine guided Rain and me into the circle she had made.
As she took my left hand and his left hand, she bound our wrists together saying, “In this time of war, in this world of hate, may each of you take refuge in this love, and safety in each other’s arms. You walk through darkness always before the light, but your love is a torch. It will never dim or fade, but stay constant to light the path of your lover. Even in times of trouble, you will find peace in each other.”
Sunshine reached down and took a handful of earth from the ground and crumbled it in our joined hands. “From your love for each other, may a deeper love for all things be born. In loving each other, also love the mother Goddess and Mother Earth, who together have blessed this union. May the blessing of the Goddess and of Mother Earth be upon you both. So mote it be.” Sunshine unbound our wrists and motioned for Petal to set free the white dove she had been holding.
Rain turned to me and we kissed. With this new strength found in each other, we would be able to face our future together.
The sun had fully risen and we all sat down on the dewy grass to eat. Petal had baked fresh loaves of fragrant bread for the wedding feast. There was also much fresh fruit. The sun was warm and it was beautiful; everything was perfect. ***
It was around noon when Rain and I packed our belongings in the van. After a tearful good-bye with Petal, Frost, and Thistle, Rain and I were on our way for Canada. We talked through the whole day and spent the night in the van. We parked at a camping ground we passed along the way. We had packed a few blankets and some sleeping bags for when we got to the cabin. It was perfect, exactly how I imagined it would all be.
Two days later, we got to the border. The border guard took Rain’s driver’s license to check him out before letting us across.
“It’s just a routine check, sir,” he had said. “After all, we can’t have any U.S. convicts escaping to Canada, now can we?”
I had a sinking feeling in my stomach when the guard returned with two others. Rain and I exchanged worried glances.
“You’re under arrest for failure to report as ordered for induction into the U.S. Army. You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you...” as he read Rain his rights, I struggled not to cry. I thought that everything was going to be OK. Rain and I were going to live happily ever after and everything was going to be OK. This couldn’t be happening.
They told us that Rain could either go to Vietnam or go to prison for ten years. When they brought us back to a fort, they left us alone to talk it over for a few minutes.
“All I want to do is be with you. If I’m away from you for ten years, everything will change and you’ll find someone else. But if I got to Vietnam, I can be out in two years, maybe sooner. I would do anything for you, you know that, don’t you, Orchid?” Rain gazed painfully into my eyes. “Whatever happens, I’ll love you forever. Nothing can separate us. Nothing.” I clung to him like a dying person clings to life. Rain was my life.
“I know. I love you. I love you. I don’t want to lose you! I don’t want anything to change, I need you too much. I’m going to love you forever and nothing will change that. I wish this could somehow be different. If only there was a way...” I sobbed.
“The only way is if I go to Vietnam. I don’t want to go to prison. I wouldn’t see the sunlight, to be able to breathe fresh air. Ten years of my life would be wasted. I have to go to ‘Nam. It’s the only way. Even if half the world separates us, I’ll always be with you. I’ll write to you every day. I love you.” A tear ran down Rain’s face. I brushed it away and kissed him gently.
“Stay safe. I love you always.”
The guards came in and escorted me out of the cell they were keeping him in. They had arranged for Rain to leave for Vietnam the next day. They would train him at a base overseas. I wanted to see him off, but the guards wouldn’t let me. I decided to go back to the apartment in Haight-Ashbury. There I would have Petal and Frost to cheer me up.
They were overjoyed to see me, but angry when they heard what had happened to Rain.
Frost’s eyes were dark and clouded with rage. “It’s the Establishment, man. I’m gonna live to see those fat old men regret that they ever got us involved in that war.” Petal let me cry as much as I needed to and just hugged me and told me that she was there for me. The letters I got almost daily from Rain helped a lot. I heard from him every day for six months, but then the letters stopped.
“Petal, I haven’t heard from him for almost two weeks. Do you think...?” I choked on a sob. Petal exchanged looks with Frost.
“I’m sure that he’s fine. The army’s probably keeping him real busy. I’m sure that he’ll write soon,” she had said.
But he didn’t. A few more weeks went by and then a letter came. It was addressed to Rachel Brook, me.
“Dear Miss Brook,
It is our sad duty to inform you of the death of Private William Smith...”
I stopped reading there. Tears blurred my vision. Everything kind of blurred into one big mass of color, and then in to darkness. ***
I awoke to Petal’s tear-stained worried face. She turned to someone I couldn’t see, “I think she’s waking up,” she said.
“Rain’s gone.” I stared bleakly at the ceiling. Petal stroked my hair.
“I know, sweetie, I know. Try not to think about that now. Just rest.” Petal smiled sadly at me and gave me something to drink that made me fall asleep...
When I woke up, it was dark and I was alone in my room. I felt a lot better, but the ache in my heart wouldn’t go away. Rain was gone! I’d never see him again, or hold him again. I looked on the little table by my bed at the picture I kept of him. I had taken it a few months before the letter came about him getting drafted. His long dark hair was tousled and his eyes were dancing with mischief. I longed for it to be that day again, when everything was so carefree and safe.
It was then that I saw the letter in front of it. There was a note with it in Petal’s handwriting. Orchid, I know when you wake up, you’ll wanna read this. It was with the letter from the army. Rain wrote it just before he died. When the morning comes, I’ll talk to you again.
I held the letter with trembling hands. These were the last words I would ever hear from Rain. I slowly unfolded the paper.
"Orchid, my love,
"As I lay on a cot in a hospital in Vietnam, I know that I’m not much longer for this world. All I’ve been able to do is think of you. The sadness it brings to know that I’ll never hold you again is unbearable. I know that as you read this, you must be feeling the same thing. I wish it could have been different, that it didn’t have to be this way. But fate is calling me to the place beyond.
"I know that you’ll be lonely without me. But I am with you always. I’m watching everything you do, yearning for that day when we will be together again, but forever. Remember that I am always with you. Every time the wind whispers, it’s me speaking your name. When the sun’s rays caress you lovingly, they are my hands. When you feel a presence near you, it is my spirit. My love for you is unending. Not even death can change that. I am with you always."