A derecho fast approaches. It promises high-speed winds and a deluge of rain the likes we haven’t seen in years. And I know you barely know me, and I know we’re just getting reacquainted after a long spell, but I am struck by the notion of you electing to come over and sit out the storm with me. We will light an extravagant number of tealights when the power goes out, and as my apartment building sways back and forth just enough to induce you to hold tight to your second glass of wine, we shall catch up on everything that’s happened since we last spoke. Delightful, well-worn yarns will give way to poignant narratives of lessons learned, which in turn will give way to an exchange of dazzling epiphanies and hard truths, which in turn will give way to empathy – and unspoken gratitude that we finally have someone to talk to for the first time in a long time.
Later you will break out the fabled ukulele and indulge me with a splendid live set – just three or four songs, really – that will make me want to kick myself for missing out on your shows all these years. But what luxury to hear them now! You will serenade your enrapt audience of one – two, actually, if you account for the likelihood of my roommate, too polite to intrude yet too spellbound to disregard the exquisite melodies drifting down the hall, listening from his perch at the kitchen table – with such elegance and warmth. As the final chord rings out (and is all too quickly dispelled by the sound of thick raindrops spattering against the windows), my first instinct will be to insist on an encore. But I imagine words will fail me at that very moment, so instead I’ll simply reach out to hold your hands in mine, as if your long, slender fingers might somehow contain faint traces of previously played notes.
Just in case the power won’t come on by morning (even though we both know it will) we’ll eat the remaining ice cream in the freezer. You will sample freely from the cartons set out on the coffee table while I select a few of my favorite short stories to read aloud to you. I am confident that you will be amused by just how much I relish introducing people to the likes of Clarence John “Pinky” Softitch, a big-hearted, big-boned custodian who finally takes a chance on love; and Rory, a photographer’s assistant who struggles so mightily to find his significance in the elusive world of high fashion; and certainly Seymour and Salmon Boy, the most unlikely romantic duo on the strangest “nonviolent killing spree” ever recorded in the annals of fiction, and will soon find yourself utterly charmed by each and every one of these protagonists as their stories unfold – and maybe even more so by the boy who gleefully narrates their hopes and dreams and noble efforts.
By the time I finish reading the wind and the rain will have let up. The aftermath won’t be anywhere near as bad as the weather reports anticipated – at worst a few railway underpasses are flooded – but it will be late by then, and seeing as you’re stretched out on the couch, eyes closed, surely right on the cusp of sleep, it will be fair to say that you’re not going anywhere.
And that’s when you’ll reply: “Of course I’m not.”
A tad startled to discover that I said that last bit aloud, I’ll look over to find you still awake after all. You will sit up, stretch your arms over your head and let loose a yawn as further evidence that you have no intention whatsoever of going home tonight.
“Are you sure?” I’ll ask anyway.
That’s when you’ll get to your feet, shuffle over to where I’m sitting in the tattered green lounge chair and crouch down to address me directly. “It’s time for bed, silly – and yours is much closer than mine.”
“Would you like me to join you?”
“Do you even have to ask?”
“I don’t want to be presumptuous.”
“Such a gentleman, even at this late hour,” you’ll tease lightly as you run your fingers through my hair. “Still, are you sure you weren’t hoping that the storm might live up to expectation and stick around just a teensy bit longer so that I’ll have no choice but to stay?”
I will decline to respond to your query. (Mostly ‘cause you’ve got me dead to rights.)
“I’ll make you a deal, Justin: I will stay if you come to bed with me. And if you’re a gentleman about it, I will even stick around long enough to let you make me breakfast.”
“I’ll hold you to that,” I’ll whisper far too seriously for the offer on the table.
A derecho fast departs. It promised high-speed winds and a deluge of rain the likes we hadn’t seen in years. And I know you still barely know me, and I know we’re still just getting reacquainted after a long spell, but I was struck by the notion that when the last of the tealights extinguish on their own as we clamber into bed; when we’re left to sort out and playfully fuss over blankets and pillows in the dark; when we’re properly twisted and tangled and nestled together in a way that only new lovers would be so greedy to demand of each other all at once, there will be a clear blue sky awaiting us come morning – and quite possibly for many days to follow.