As soon as I put the phone down I jumped into the shower. I needed to make it quick because I wanted to clean up the shit tip I had been dwelling in for the last couple of weeks. I stared myself down in the mirror as the lukewarm water rained down on me.
“This is the right thing to do” I said aloud.
I shaved off the beard I had been growing. It seemed strange to see my face back to normal again. It was better I think. I thought that I could see a few more wrinkles than before. But I was probably just imagining it. My eyes looked a little bloodshot. Sleeping drunk with my contacts in every night hadn’t helped I’m sure. I wiped all of the dried blobs of toothpaste from the edges of the sink and moved some of my cosmetics around. I stood back and looked at the organized space that framed me in the mirror. I had gained a bit of weight recently. My six-pack was now a two pack and I had none of that definition she used to love. There was something about my stance as well. My shoulders never used to slump as much as they did now. It was as if the extra weight I had was pulling them down a bit. I grabbed the towel and wrapped it around my shoulders, covering myself. As much as I wanted to, a part of me hoped that the night wouldn’t end in sex. I didn’t want her to see what I had become in her absence.
As I dried myself off and grabbed some fresh clothes, I put on my “on-the-go” playlist. I laughed to myself when “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright” by Bob Dylan started up. Grabbing a white recycling trash bag and puffing a cigarette, I started to clean the sty that I was living in. Makeshift ashtrays, coke bottles, beer cans, takeaway boxes, receipts for bar tabs on my credit card. They were all ruthlessly stuffed into the bag. I threw all of my dirty laundry into the washing machine and left it there, hiding.
“You’re the reason I’m travelin’ on, don’t think twice it’s alright” sang Bob.
The rain thrashed down heavily on my window pane as I did my hair in the mirror and sang along to Lou Reed. My hair had started to grow back to the way I liked it. I splashed on a little aftershave and sparked another cigarette. I looked out at the grim apartment complex I lived in. Everything in this bastard city looked awful in the rain. Not like home. There’s something beautiful about the countryside in the rain. I grabbed my keys and phone and walked towards the door. I decided to leave the music playing quietly while I was out. I hated the thought of coming home to silence again.
“Hi Julie” he said as she approached him. She walked carefully, tip toeing over the puddles. She didn’t hear him. The rain was beating down on her little umbrella, deafening all but the noise of the traffic as it splashed through the water.
“Hi Nick” she said as she came in closer. His hair had grown longer since they had last seen one another. The short style she had suggested he wear had started to grow out. It looked a little closer to when they had first met.
“How about this rain eh?” he said. Julie smiled and looked up at her umbrella. A big drip of water seeped through the fabric and dripped onto her forehead.
“Horrible. But sometimes, I think that rain like this is quite nice. It’s good for thinking.”
“What?” he shouted, straining to hear her over the drumming sound of the rain and the faint noise of the traffic.
“It’s horrible!” she shouted. He nodded. He looked to his feet and saw that the water had climbed up to his knees already. His sneakers had squelched with ever step to get here.
She smiled and nodded.
They walked in silence for about ten minutes. Every now and again their eyes would meet. They would look away again. The road from the subway station to the riverside was almost flooded. They were the only people on the street who weren’t running or skipping over puddles. They just walked slowly, dragging through all the water in front of them. When they arrived at the riverside, they were the only people there. The river had almost burst its banks. The brown flow moved smooth and powerful, dragging at the flowers and grass that framed the river. They each looked at the river and back at one another. Nick smiled first.
As they walked they gradually moved closer together until his umbrella came over hers. The water streamed from Julie’s umbrella and ran onto Nick’s shoulder.
“Ah, fuck!” shouted Nick, leaping to the side a little, pulling himself away from her.
“Oh shit! I’m sorry Nick!”
They stood opposite one another with a small river of water running between them. They were both soaked up to their thighs. Julie’s make-up had started to smudge a little. Nick’s hair had been glued to his head from wayward drips and splashes. A drip of slid down his cheek and into the corner of his mouth. He tasted that salty moisture he had fought back earlier.
“No, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
He dropped his head and looked back at the small stream of water between them.
“I fucked up Julie. I love you so much. I just got scared I think.”
“Wait, wait! I can’t hear you!” she shouted as she moved in close to him. She put her arm around his back. Sliding under the protection of his umbrella, she threw hers into the river. They both turned and watched it as it floated down stream, until it was swallowed by the driving rain.