Rain is falling beneath the eaves. We stand there and stare as the fat drops spatter on the windowpane, distorting our view through the glass. Rivulets run but I’m distracted by a twitching spasm beneath my ribs, flesh quivering beneath my kneading hand. I wonder if I’m having a heart attack. Is this what it feels like? The numbness spreads through my body.
No. I’m too young to have a heart attack; I remember the doctor’s exasperated words to me, the consummate hypochondriac who makes mountains out of grains of sand. Still, you hear stories of youths snatched away by cardiac complaints as their tearful friends and family gather round their grave and mutter: “Too soon, too soon.” Regret is not an epitaph I desire.
The tingling subsides as she breathes out, fogging up the clouded windowpane which stands between us and an unasked-for shower. It’s a sigh of regret as I rub at my ribs, stalling for time in the face of the unexpected; she was only to stay for a while, but when the rain came pouring down from the blue cloudless sky I could do nothing but offer: “Please, won’t you stay? Just until it blows over.” With the small-talk store I’d prepared now exhausted, and the things I most want to say locked up behind the familiar doors of cowardly prudence, only the rain and the silence remain. Still, we are comfortable enough in the enfolding patter – the rain fills the gaps between our words.
I open my mouth and close it again, foundering. The interstitial fluid sets and begins to harden and she glances at me, as if waiting for me to claw through the muck before the silence grows solid. Why doesn’t the rain stop?
There is a thump in the house and my imagination flicks on, forced by evolutionary decree to picture the worst. Burglars, creeping in using the sunstorm’s torrent as cover; a waterlogged support beam collapsing, just a prelude to the roof of this shoddy old house caving in. The latter holds credibility – we were told it could happen, no matter how unlikely the real estate agents made it sound.
“What is it?”
She breathes in and from the way her eyebrows raise and crinkle the skin between her green-and-blue eyes I can tell she is frustrated. The brief rain is fading but I am not assertive enough to rise to the occasion. Society has failed to instill me with the requisite traits; I raise my hand to the windowpane and gesture.
“Look, the rain is stopping.”
Idiot! I don’t want her to leave any longer, but circumstances have changed and I was never really in control. As she gathers her things, I hand her the coat which I’d always wanted for myself and we promise to meet again soon, very soon. The fog on the windowpane is evaporating in the sudden sunshine but my thoughts are scattered by the sound of a thump from upstairs.