The Mirage in the Rain

By Megan Robb

I know I was on my way home—home in this case being my college apartment—but I don’t remember where I was leaving. It doesn’t matter. In my memory, the entire landscape is blurred and grayed by sheets of rain. I mean sheets, curtains, heavy yet fluid drapes that made the whole world unrecognizable. To this day, I can’t pinpoint a highway, intersection, or landmark that would give me a clue as to where I was.

There existed only one building as far as I’m concerned, and that’s where I pulled over and decided to wait in the parking lot for the storm to subside. Sitting in a parked car is rarely any fun, though, so I ran inside what looked like some kind of dusty mini-mart. It was dusty all right. It was dim and had ratty gray carpeting. There was the usual rest stop merchandise and some faded greeting cards, but it wasn’t so much a mini-mart as it was an amazing treasure trove of foreign candy. There were all kinds of colorful packages with smiling rabbits and bears and words I didn’t understand.

There were giant chocolate boxes, presumably from India, with lovingly illustrated portraits on them. There were those German chocolate eggs that were recalled in the U.S. because the small toy inside each one was declared a choking hazard. There was even a candy called Weirds. Seriously. It was a U.N. summit of all things sweet. The store itself was run by people whom I’m guessing were from somewhere in Eastern Europe.

They spoke to each other in some tongue that wasn’t quite German and wasn’t quite Russian. It was all very overwhelming, but I wanted to stay there forever. Eventually, though, I did have to tear myself away from that wondrous place. The storm had calmed enough for me to be able to see outside my windshield, so I quietly made my exit.

When I returned to the familiar safety of the apartment, I told my roommate all about this mysterious shop that sheltered me from the worst rainstorm I’d ever had the misfortune to drive though. Yet no amount of Google Maps searches could tell me where the Magical Former Eastern Bloc Candy Store was or what it was actually called. For a long time I was convinced that this place had a kind of Brigadoon setup where it only existed for one day every 100 years. The more I think about it, though, the less sure I am that the store existed at all.

It’s a shame I didn’t buy anything from there. At least there would be some ephemeral proof. It’s unsettling to think it was all in my mind. I was living off campus, though, so it couldn’t have been one of the bizarre dreams I’d get from the equally bizarre illnesses that came with dorm life. I have no idea. The more I try to remember, the fuzzier the details get. Maybe it was a reverse of the famed desert mirages: a dry place in an ocean of rain.

Contributing writer Megan Robb is a writer, consultant and editor living in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her articles can be found at,, and, as well as her personal website,