Alternate Histories: 5/20, 4/25


[Note: I took 2 days a week off during the first round of Climate Anxiety Counseling sessions, so this is an alternate history from a day I’ve already visited.]

I own a rainwear company. I wasn’t sure if this was flip or genuine.

Genuine. So when you hear about the climate changing, do you think like–we can do more with this or–

We don’t use it as a marketing thing. It came about because I like biking. So much of what you hear about climate has a lot of negativity, and bike riding is a positive thing. But it’s difficult to give up your car–you’re exposed to the weather. So we wanted to make rainwear that would be accessible–not accessible pricewise, unfortunately–but we hoped it would help people make that transition to get out of the car, without saying all these things. Like, “This is cool,” not, “We’re all doomed.” I work with bike advocates and they say that it’s the same with helmets–when you talk about safety, no one’s gonna do it. You can’t get people to help you. How can you make it positive? I don’t know how you do that with climate change.



The next day, X took inventory. She noted everything that was in her office, from computer monitor to paperclips; how many yards of waterproof polyester and water-resistant corduroy were in the warehouse; how many rivets and grommets and zippers they’d already paid for. She noted each mile of road on her way home from work, each streetlight, each stop sign, each square of municipal ironwork, each varicose crack in the bike lane, each sparrow-filled yew bush, each person inching along with a cane or striding boldly or mincing or pushing a stroller. In her kitchen, she noted the plastic takeout container full of oatmeal and the jar of cloves that had followed her through three apartment; thumbing through her phone, she looked at her friends’ and brothers’ and suppliers’ names and tiny faces. She read her electric bill and her gas bill, and thought about the people who had put them in their envelopes and mailed them to her. She saw herself in a net of all these things and people.

She thought, I’m good at making things. I’m good at making people want the things I make, even if they don’t need them. Making desire. Water falls from the sky and rolls off fabric I paid someone else to stitch together, using a third person’s money. It soaks into whatever cracks and capillaries it can find. What I make, what I have a lot of, can stand between something wet and something dry.

And so the finished raincoats went to protesters in New York and Baltimore, stuffed into the luggage compartments of buses, and the waterproof polyester lined small-scale irrigation systems and mended leaky roofs. (It turned out that the water-resistant corduroy wasn’t good for much.) A community library took the computer and a person who found paperclips very soothing took the paperclips, and people from the fast-food place on the first floor squatted the office as their union headquarters. Suppliers’ and manufacturers’ names and tiny faces melted from X’s phone like sugar in the rain, and so, after a few bouts of hot questions and cool answers, did those of her brothers.

We’ll take it all away from you, said the world X knew best.

You can’t, said X, noting the world within the world, growing and dying all the time.

As long as there are prices, someone will have to pay them. X had kept one raincoat for herself, as a relic and reminder, but also to keep herself dry. Her phone still worked with barely a hiccup, and she wondered why. She set out on her bike for the foot of the nearest cell tower, to try and find out.

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