Monday, April 8, 2013

'Til the Rain Lets Up

She sat me down at the kitchen table and fetched me a fresh towel. As I dried myself off, she retrieved a roll of duct tape with a bright cerulean sheen -- likely the unused remainder of an art installation -- from a nearby drawer and then returned to the chair closest to mine, the old black one salvaged from an alleyway not far from the apartment we used to share together on the other side of town -- the place where I still lived until last month when I finally moved out, too.  She ripped off a long strip and then motioned for me to hand over my blown sneaker.  I dutifully complied and, with great care, she thoroughly wrapped the tape around and around again over where the sole had separated from the rest of the shoe, sacrificing most of the dirty laces and scuffed synthetic leather in the process.

When she finished, she offered it back to me and said, "It's not perfect, but it will get you home."

I nodded and slipped the sneaker back over my wet and wrinkled right foot.

"C'mon," she said and then ushered me back out onto the front porch.

It was still pouring outside.

"Do you need money for the bus?"

I shook my head, "Nah, I've got a few bucks.  And I feel like walking anyway."

"It's a long walk home."

Actually, that wasn't true.  I lived just three blocks away these days, although she didn't know that.  Not yet.

I didn't mean for it to happen.  Well, I don't know if that's the whole truth, but it was one of the few places I could afford on my current budget -- and it certainly didn't hurt that the only person I really wanted (still wished was) in my life lived nearby.  As it stood, there wasn't much of a "home" to go to these days.  I mean, I had furniture, plates and utensils, an entertainment center, two bookshelves crammed with books and a high-strung cat that belonged to a friend who asked me to look after it while he went on a three-month backpacking trip abroad (and then conscripted me into adopting it when he found true love on a WWOOF somewhere in Australia).

Essentially, I had all the trappings of a home as proof that life was being lived in an apartment.  I could invite anyone over to show that I had replaced most everything that she had taken with her when she left.  I could reveal to my friends that I was finally "making progress".

But it didn't mean that I belonged there.

"I'll be fine," I replied.  "Once the rain lets up."

From the comfort of the covered front porch we watched the torrent come down.  It had long since washed the cars clean, but the grimy, misshapen mounds of hardened winter sleet that stubbornly clung to curbsides and street signs still remained.

I thought about how cold my right foot would be by the time I got home.

"I don't want this to become a thing."


"You dropping by unannounced."

"Oh.  It won't."

"I know this has been hard for you, Eric.  It's hard for me, too.  You've been really good about respecting my wishes."

"This won't be a 'thing', Rae.  I promise."

I could tell that she wanted to say something more, probably wanted to repeat herself "just to make things clear".  But she held back, which made me both grateful and annoyed.

I took a seat on the front step.  She remained standing.  The rain went on unabated.  Spring was here.

"Where were you coming from?"

I shrugged.  "An errand."  Then I looked up at her.  "I really was just passing by -- and I don't plan on hanging around either."

"Just 'til the rain lets up."

"You got it."

I returned to watching the rain.  It was already letting up.

"Okay then.  Have a good weekend."

"You, too.  Thanks for the tape."

That's when she surprised me by leaning down and whispering right in my ear -- the way she always used to -- the way she knew just drove me wild -- "You're welcome.  Handsome."

Then she turned around and went back inside.

Not sure what just happened, but knowing that it was more than I could've hoped for, I promised myself that I would be gone before she came back out to check if I was still there.

(c) JVH