It was windy and rainy but he had somewhere to go. It never even occurred to him that he might want to put it off. The weather was awful, he didn’t have a car and so weather was something he just dealt with. Of course he could have postponed and stayed dry.
But he had promised her a loaf of that great baguette from his favorite bakery and he’d be damned if he’d pass up a chance to spend a few minutes with her. He took an umbrella, but mainly to protect his hair…he wanted to set up a good image. It was useless, the rain blew sideways making it a moot point. Besides the rain itself he had also to contend with trucks and buses kicking up fountains of water as they went past. A few times he almost lost it on the slippery cobbles but he kept going. Love imparts its’s own logic and motivations.
Of course he didn’t know how she felt about him yet. The loaf was sort of an offering. A bauble presented by a suitor hoping to impress and lure the object of his affection into further entanglement. He had seen glimmers of hope but to be honest he was hardly desperate. He was sociable and not bad looking. Often he would dally for a day, or a week, or even a few months with one of the much younger women that frequented the downtown cafes. But she was different…closer to his age; just the right blend of looks and brains. Desperate? No, but he desperately wanted her approval.
He reached her building, walked the bike inside and shook off the best he could, trying to get himself organized without a mirror. He gave up. He was so thoroughly soaked that there was not much point. He rang her flat. She buzzed him into the hallway and he went up a flight of stairs. Before he could knock she opened the door “Oh my! Look at you!”
He held out the loaf for her to take “well, I promised I’d bring it over”.
“You brought that for me in the pouring rain!” She threw her arms around him, clearly touched and planted a wet kiss on his cheek. “Now come on in, get dried off and lets try that bread.”
That was the first time she’d kissed him. Some romances have a cycle: the chase, ignition, the climb, the peak, the long slow descent;and then it’s over. This one never got to the peak; they just kept climbing for the rest of their lives. All because he made sure he brought her that loaf of bread…on his bike…in the pouring rain.
He took her hand, “I’m sorry you feel that way. I would have hoped you’d understand.”
“What’s to understand? We’ve been together since, well since we shouldn’t have been together.” She was crying a little now, “But I know, I mean I should have known, I can’t compete with those fancy eastern girls you met at that stupid college.”
He’d tried to time this right, his train left in ten minutes. That would give him enough time to tell her, let it sink in and then hop on the train back east. An easy escape. But it wasn’t working out, she wasn’t taking it easy. “It’s not that Bets, sometimes you just meet someone and it feels right.” The conductor was starting to shoo people onto the train.
“Pullman sleepers to the rear, coaches to the front. We’re running two minutes late, all aboard folks!” The conductor pulled a lantern out and lit it, the flame glowed red and green through the Fresnel lenses. He was getting ready to highball the engineer. The sound of steam escaping as the brakes released.
“Bets I gotta go.” I’ll write you, try to explain it better.
“Save your time and your 3 cents. I won’t read it”. She walked back to the parking lot.
From the train window he could see her car still sitting there. Snow piled up on the windshield. Was she sitting there crying? He would write to her anyway. And as the train pulled away, he pictured her in rolled up jeans, daring the boys to throw her off the monkey bars, or in her first dress at the school dance. And he couldn’t help thinking he’d made a horrible mistake.
You’ve not eaten all day and you’re at the point where the hunger hurts, but there is no desperation…yet. After all, you’ve some options to find a meal, though admittedly they are narrowing as the evening comes on. The damned rain is not helping. The best thing you can say for the rain is that the dampness is taking your mind off the hunger. But soon you may be trading hypothermia for starvation.
Would you really starve? The rational part of your brain is saying “no”. You have water at the public drinking fountains and you know if you got desperate there are…well people that you could go to. And they would feed you, happily. But that would be indeed a high price, one that you are not yet willing to contemplate. That’s the rational part of your brain.
There is a wrestling match going on between your rationality and a rising panic. You are not a street person, you’re not resourceful. What if you couldn’t eat for another 24 hours and then it became 48? Would you go to him then…or to her? After what they’d done. You’d come so far, only to go sliding back.
And then you see it…you had not even thought to look but there it was. Friday night community fish dinner…free to all. You hadn’t gone to church for years aside from a wedding. In fact you don’t even believe in God. Until maybe, just now.