It was raining again the kind of rain that pattered softly but not too softly. The drops told stories each of them but not too loudly, not too insistently, not too repeatedly. They were the kind of stories that you would hear if you weren't in too much of a hurry or weren't too lost in yourself but you have to be lost in yourself just a little to hear the stories of the rain because all you hear is what's already in you. But he was too far gone.
Too far inside to consider the catharsis that rain usually symbolized, too contemplative to consider the new beginnings that rain brought. Too preoccupied to even think about the smell that rain has when it mixes with tarmac, a smell he had loved much longer than he had loved most human beings. He was just glad that it was the kind of rain that you could keep a cigarette lit in. The trick of lighting it was to bend your head almost in supplication to the forces of nature arrayed before you and take a deep breath, a breath from your very soul.
She walked up to him and gave him that smile and he nearly forgot that it was raining, he nearly forgot that he was smoking, then the ashes reminded him of the silence and he steeled himself,
pleasantries were exchanged but they seemed hollow, she knew how fucked up he had been, unable to sleep or think, drinking with the aim of the dark blackout, and it pained him to say he was fine. But he did. For a while they talked about nothing. Using words however inconsequential to fill the abyss that now existed between them, using them like a ladder hoping that maybe when they had said enough words they could finally talk. And so they said words. Meaningless words, words about careers and friends that neither of them cared about right now. They said words with the hope of bringing smiles to each other's faces, they said words because they recognized that silence is sometimes too much to bear, they said words because they were here and it was expected. And they may have said words forever if the rain had let them but it became too insistent, too loud, it screamed at them and in a moment they were drenched and driven away.
“I read your letter,” she said and his heart froze.
He knew she had read it but the acknowledgement was something different. Those words had meant a lot to him. He could still remember the night he wrote it, he could remember the pain he had been trying to exorcise and how it had felt to send the letter. Like he had been holding his breath underwater for hours and just before he drowned someone reached in and brought him to the surface.
A talent for nonchalance what he meant to say was -i mean every word you saw in there my life has been hollow so far and I try to fill my soul with the smoke from these cigarettes and in the end I feel worse holding on to things I think can make me happy, knowing they won't but having no other way to hide my grief. And am not sure I can forgive that you don't feel the same way. But despite it all am willing to try-
“Some things are hard to talk about I can't tell you how glad I am you thought I was important enough to get over ... to get over all you would have to to write a letter like that. And maybe now its my turn to talk.” She took a deep breath the kind that people use to prepare themselves for the worst things in life, the kind of breath he could imagine a soldier in a long gone war taking before they amputated his leg with no anesthesia. If he had any idea how close he was to the truth he would have dropped the cigarette hanging limply in his hands.
“i am sorry.”
Those word were infused with so much emotion he could almost hear her breaking. Words are nothing but images, symbols of meanings that reach everyone in different ways. These reached him in ways that he hadn't expected. These reached inside him and took hold of parts he thought belonged to just him.
“i am so sorry” she emphasized and tears streaked down her cheeks or was it the remains of the rain that had been falling around them trying to put out a fire that it could not. She held his hands to look in his eyes and there he saw misgivings, misapprehensions and missed chances. In there he saw the words again. He saw them fight to form. And he felt touched. More than by all the works of literature he had ever read. More touched than all the declarations of love he had believed in his life. He looked in her eyes and he saw his wife, he saw his life.
Love welled up in him threatening to bury everything else that was him. He wanted to say it was OK. That the past was nothing but that. He wanted to say that he knew they had a lot to talk about and that it would all be painful, every real word they spoke would kill a part of him but this part lived. He could see this was the only part that mattered, the part that held him to her and her to him. He wanted to tell her that would give up cigarettes. He wanted to tell her that he would give up him.
Instead he waited old habits die hard, they are a part of us and his cigarette wasn't yet done. It had felt like a really long time to smoke one cigarette, maybe the rain had made it soggy, maybe it was that he he had lived a lifetime in those moments.
“i love you,” she said and he had an inkling. You don't love someone this long without recognizing sorrow and there was too much sorrow in those words. It was not the pain of regret and reconciliation it was the hurt of conviction and confirmation.
“I just love him more.”
It was still raining outside, he could see every drop fall now. He could see the rain cry and now he could hear their stories, stories of pain and fury, of clouds turning to nothing and falling to their death with all their brothers a mass suicide pact that instead of being mourned was celebrated everywhere. He had just been so happy and now he was so sad, those moments were flabbergasted to be in each other's presence. A moment of complete love and hope and another of despair. A moment when he realized that what he thought was his guardian angel was actually the soul of his tortured demon. A moment when he felt like it all stopped, because in that moment it did.
Like the raindrops the butt of his cigarette fell to the ground perhaps giving him example.