The Rain Stops Stopping

The raindrops became larger, pounding a louder staccato on the umbrella above her. She wondered if it was loud enough to drown out the sound of her heartbeat. She wondered if he could hear it as they huddled on the corner, waiting for the light to change to cross the street.

As they stood together under the umbrella, she could not quite bring herself to meet his eye. Instead, she risked a glance as high as his hand holding the umbrella just inches from her face. He had smaller hands than she imagined, yet they were dark, wiry, strong. She had the urge to find out whether his fingertips were smooth from all the typing he was doing for his thesis or they were calloused from playing guitar at the club Thursday nights.

The light changed and he placed his hand at the small of her back and they moved forward. The rain had picked up, forming rivulets along the curb and large puddles they had to step around. She pointed to the stoop of her building and they walked up the few steps to the door. They stood nervously just a moment before she quickly thanked him and withdrew her keys from her bag. She did look up then and smiled. When he smiled back, it was as though she was blinded for a moment. He leaned forward and she tilted he head a bit, expecting, hoping… He looked at her mouth, then her eyes, and then he smiled again. Asked her if she’d like to have dinner that night. She said yes and he said he’d pick her up in a few hours. He turned to leave. She walked up the steps with soggy shoes and a beaming smile.

As he walked to his apartment, he mentally kicked himself. Why didn’t he kiss her, he thought? She looked ready to be kissed. But when she smiled up at him, it was – he thought cornily- like the sun had come out. He forgot anything he had been about to say or do. Luckily, he had the wherewithal to ask her to dinner.

A few hours later, she answered the door and found him standing again, looking devastatingly handsome, at her door with his umbrella. Walk with me, he said. Where’s dinner, she asked. He cleared his throat and answered my place, if that’s alright. She said sure and as they walked, they chatted about the rain, term papers, the new sauce the local pizzeria was using, and the rain again.

A quiet descended when they got to his apartment. The rooms held the unmistakable mark of a bachelor in residence. Mismatched furniture. Posters tacked to walls. The smells coming from the kitchen were delicious. A family recipe, he said. After a companionable meal, they cleared dishes, poured wine and moved toward the sofa. She was diverted by the sound of rolling thunder. She walked to the window and he joined her there. They sipped their wine, watched the rain, listened to the thunder.

Now she was sure he could hear her heartbeat as he moved closer and placed their glasses on a shelf. Any other thoughts she had were washed away by the rain and the warmth of their touch as their lips met. Her hands found their way into his hair. His hands pulled her by the waist so close there was no space between them. Soon she felt as though they were above the clouds, looking down at the rainfall.

She felt him all around her. Pressed closely, their hearts were beating and ricocheting off their chests in an allegro tempo, with their breathing forming a lush backdrop to the rain. The symphony of sound and textures was highlighted by the dimly lit figures they made with the only an outside streetlight providing soft focus details.

She recalled her first glimpse of him across the lecture hall. In her memory it was like there had been a beacon shining on his beautiful face for an instant. Just long enough for the world to shift beneath her feet. With a burst of primal need, she predictably questioned her allure. Her closest friend from down the hall helped her in those first tentative days, with suggestions and dares and other childish tactics. It had worked. Here she was now in his arms. Watching hunger cross his features.

He didn’t notice the rain or flickering lights. Just how soft she was, how bright her eyes shined in the dim room, his own heaving breaths pushing against her. He couldn’t believe he was holding her, the girl he hadn’t even noticed until a few weeks ago at the lecture. He had seen her across the room and watched her walk down the stairs, moving like a sinuous swirl of smoke. He had been transfixed. Though instead of those jeans and t-shirt, he pictured her in a sundress with her curves highlighted. He would have to try to convince her to stop wearing jeans. And start wearing her hair down instead of pulled back all the time, too. She could be a siren if she tried just a little. Why pull all those glorious curls in a ponytail? He loved how they spilled across his pillow. What an astonishing sight. He would throw out all her hair ties to see her like this again.

That night proved to be a beginning of a whirlwind of pain and the end of the ideal. Over days and then weeks, there was a shift from the new and exciting and bright to something darker. She had thought him out of her league and he had thought her delicate, pliable. As she embraced her sensuality, he slowly groomed her to become his feminine ideal. There were subtle hints about wearing her hair differently, ditching jeans to show off her legs, adding a little makeup to “highlight” her features, reading suggested books and listening to suggested music. The scope of the shift of power in their relationship was not clear to her until she found herself one night waiting at his place at his direction.

Having spent less time with friends recently, she decided to go to a party making sure she got home before him. But soon after arriving, she felt him staring from across the room even before she saw him. He glanced away and she stood unsure before walking to him. He pulled her in for a hug, whispered menacingly in her ear and she was making excuses to leave within minutes.

She didn’t have to wait long before hearing his steps in the hall outside the apartment. There seemed to be a long pause, then he came into the room. It felt like time was holding its breath as the next couple of hours were filled with touching, kissing, pushing, crying, yelling, punching, slapping, tearing, pleading, then quiet. He had barely spoken anything intelligible. Just shared his body and his rage and his beautiful dark eyes became shuttered.

He watched her put herself back together. He watched as she gathered her things. He watched as she left. No words. No tears. It was as though they were both stunned and weren’t sure what had happened.

When she saw him days later in class, she squelched a slight ache in her heart and was able to avoid him. It took a few minutes of walking home, pondering, looking at the sidewalk, to realize it was raining. As she reached the same corner they had first shared an umbrella, she relished the feeling of the cool rain on her skin. She felt silly thinking it, but the rain was almost a cleansing for her. She felt lighter as she took off her wet shoes inside the door. Looking out the window, she saw him crossing the street towards his place. He was looking down, his hair plastered to his head. He carried his umbrella, but it remained tucked under his arm, seemingly forgotten.

A very small part of her felt for him. She knew how it felt walking away in pain but how does it feel when it lives inside you? She let the curtain close on him and the rain.

“The storm starts, when the drops start dropping
When the drops stop dropping then the storm starts stopping.”
–Dr. Seuss


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