The difference a bit of rain makes
``Damn.'' It was raining cats and dogs. I had the umbrella with me, but my car was too far away. I'd be wet when I got to it, with or without an umbrella. I approached the door of the building, where four or five people waited, mourning the lack of an umbrella or the rain. As I prepared to open mine, I recognized Ann, waiting there.
``Hi,'' I said. She smiled.
``Heavy rain... Don't you have an umbrella?''
``No, I forgot it.''
I could be a gentleman.
``Do you still live nearby?''
``Come with me, I'll give you a ride. My car is over there.''
``Oh, don't worry...''
``It's fine. You are going home, right?''
``Yes. I'm so tired today.''
``Come, let's share the umbrella.''
When she came closer to me, and we started to run under the rain, I smelled her faint perfume, mixed with the stronger scent of fresh rain. I opened the car door for her. When I was about to enter the car myself, I had problems to close the umbrella, and ended wet to my bones.
``God, this rain is cold!'' She smiled, sitting in the car, much drier than me.
I drove. It was a only a five-minute drive, and we made small talk, catching up a little. We only saw each other occasionally lately, meeting by chance, like today. The rain became worse and worse, and by the time I reached her place I could barely drive at all.
``Do you want to wait for the rain to get a little lighter?'' I asked her.
``No. I'm already wet, I'll have to change anyway. Are you driving in this rain?''
``No, I'll wait here until it gets a little better. I think in a couple of minutes it will be better.''
``Do you want to come in? If you are waiting...''
``I don't want to bother. You said you are tired.''
``It's no bother, you drove me here. Come on.''
She made mention to open the door.
``Don't you want the umbrella?''
``No, it's fine. You use it.''
She opened the door and slammed it back, sprinting to her place. I did the same, but with the umbrella. Not that it helped much. When I arrived there, she had already opened the front door.
She lived in a small house, shared with two friends. She was dripping on the floor, and I wasn't much better. ``We look like two wet puppies,'' she said, giggling. ``You better take that shirt off, or you'll catch a pneumonia. I have a big sweater that may fit you, come with me.''
I followed her to her room. She opened a drawer and took a sweater out. It had a big girlie cartoon stamped on it. She grinned. ``No one will see you. I use it to sleep.'' It was way too big for her, big even for me. ``It must be huge on you,'' I said, taking my shirt off. Then something magical happened, I'm not sure what; all I know is I was naked from my waist up, and she was looking at me in an odd way. I reached for her, she looked at my eyes, and I had the guts to pull her to me, slowly. ``You are wet, too,'' I whispered, unbuttoning her shirt, slowly, while we gazed into each other's eyes. When I finished the last button, I moved my hands to her shoulders, brushing the shirt off, and feeling her cold, damp skin. And we kissed, she still holding the big sweater, forgotten of its existence. Her lips were a bit cold, because of the rain. I wanted to say something, ``let's get under the sheets or will catch a pneumonia'' or something like that, but it was not necessary. I took her hands, and we headed for the bed. The rain was pouring heavily outside. Only when it came to taking off my underwear I remembered something. ``Ann... Please, please tell me you have condoms...'' She looked at me, eyes wide open, and I was ready to curse the universe when her eyes brightened, ``Tracy does!'' and she ran off to her roommate's room, coming back in seconds, shutting the door and leaving the whole universe outside.
I held her in my arms, under the blankets, welcoming her warm weight, the two used condoms thrown away, a slight taste of her still in my tongue and throat. The rain outside was now almost a drizzle, but had not stopped.
``I guess the order is wrong, but do you want to go out for dinner?''
She took a moment to answer, and I was afraid that this was going to be a one time thing.
``Why did you never ask me out before, Herb?''
I had asked that question to myself many times. I met her years ago, when she had short hair and carried a beaten orange cloth bag around. I liked her at once, but something told me we wouldn't get along if we became more than friends. And those endless circumstances that we call Life kept us apart; we lived far from each other, we were both shy, she couldn't come to a trip that I was going... Coincidences... That day I had to leave early and we could have had dinner together, the dinner party when we sat too far away to keep a conversation, and then our paths just split apart and we rarely saw each other. But by then I had already given up.
``I don't know. Shyness, I guess.''
``Do you like me?''
``I do. I really do.''
She had looked into my eyes, when she was under me right before, and pleaded, ``Say my name.'' I said it, ``Ann... You are so pretty, Ann...'' but I had been a bit absorbed, trying not to come too soon. The second time was better, I sat Indian style and she sat on my lap. We held each other, kissing, my hands feeling her wonderful body, playing with her hard nipples, her perfect breasts, letting her control the tempo, and the whole time I looked straight to her face, the hazelnut eyes matching the hair that now flowed freely to her shoulders, and thinking and saying that she was marvelous, beautiful, perfect, and holding back not to say that I loved her.
But now I felt something was wrong, and noticed she was quietly crying.
``What is wrong, Ann? Why are you crying?'' I pulled her to me so I could see her face, but she wanted to hide it on my shoulders.
``Why didn't you say so before...''
I didn't know why she was crying, I was sorry too that we had wasted all that time; but for once chance had been good to us, and blessed be that rain outside. And I didn't know what to do, I mean, what men knows what to do with a woman crying in his arms? I just held her to me, trying to find soothing words and to figure out why she was crying. ``If you just did...'' she said.
She kept sobbing, mumbling the occasional meaningless phrase, and I begged her to tell me why she was crying, not to cry anymore. Then she blurted it out, not making much sense, but I could understand it. She had had a boyfriend, some guy that had asked her out, and she said yes after a while, because she liked me but couldn't find the courage to ask me out, and I never asked her. He had been insistent, told her she liked her, I guess he played all his cards, and then she accepted. She didn't say, but I think he was not a nice guy. Actually, a bastard. Then she got pregnant, and he didn't want the baby. I think she knew it was better in a way, but... she had lost her baby, she said, ``my baby...'' I wonder how many nights she had cried herself to sleep, thinking about the baby that never was. I felt so sad for her, so sorry for her... I didn't know what to say, I just shut up. She didn't even suggest it, but I think she was afraid she couldn't have children anymore.
I let her cry in my arms, as the rain and the night fell outside.
``I'm tired, Herb... Please, go...''
``Do you want anything?''
I left the dark bedroom. She was quiet now, not sobbing anymore. I closed the door and left a note to her asking to call me, with my number. I didn't have hers; I wrote that too, so she wouldn't think that I forgot her. The rain was now a thin drizzle, the lamp posts were lit and alien, and I felt an anguish that would never leave me again.