Walking Between Raindrops
Sitting in the nearly empty streetcar, through the open doors behind him, he heard the sound of the boys running to catch the street car, chiding each other to go faster. Their feet flopping hard on the wet pavement and he remembered what his father had said; “Heel to toe. Heel to toe! Sound is an energy wave. When you hear your feet hitting the pavement, that is the sound of wasted energy. Heel to toe, boy.” And sometime in high school his father had left home but came back later and Stephen asked where he had gone. “I was staying in the city,” staying with a friend, “you remember Carrie? I’ve known her for years.” And he did remember Carrie, Carrie walking next to his father as his father said heel to toe when he was a child, maybe in third grade. She was dad’s friend, and when he thought about it he couldn’t remember ever seeing his mom with her. She was just dad’s friend and he hadn’t seen her in years. Freshman year he thought he had seen her at a football game he was playing in, in the stands with another man who he didn’t know, and his mom and dad were at the other end of the stands. She was in the visitors section with a man he didn’t know but he couldn’t remember who they were playing, but he had asked dad if that was Carrie and mom gave him a look and dad said, “I wouldn’t know.” And then he broke his collar bone. Mom yelled, “I told you this would happen.” And dad said “Boys break things that’s how you know they’re boys,” and it heeled and he was fine. Heel to toe. He ran track instead his junior and senior year, good enough to make state and come in last. Heel to toe, the silent footsteps that carried him away from there, making no noise. She was dad’s friend. And he wondered why this came to mind now, until the high school boys whose feet flopped on the ground came crashing through the grayness from the seats on the other side of the car.
“Did you talk to Pritzy last night?” the voice on the edge of manhood. “He destroyed pk47.”
“Bullshit!” The rounder of the two smaller boys cried out. “Pritzy’s a lying piece a shit.”
“No, I heard about it too,” said the other smaller boy. “He took ‘em out in Midgard.”
“You’re just pissed because you got nerfed,” chided the boy whose voice broke on the word nerfed. The other two boys made fun of him, making their voices crack on the word repeatedly. “Screw you guys. I’m the only one who’s ever beaten Pritzy. And when I get my driver’s license, I’m not driving you guys around.”
“That’s not gonna be till next summer anyway,” said the rounder boy who imitated the cracking voice on the word anyway. They moved closer to the door as the streetcar approached the library stop.
Stephen wondered where they went to school; were they catching the max line? Playing hooky? Maybe there wasn’t school today but Thanksgiving wasn’t for another three weeks. Now he thought about the fact that nobody would get much of anything done in that Thanksgiving week and maybe that would be a great time to take off and go to Vegas with Larson but that was the Civil War weekend and they’d have to come back early for the game.
The streetcar came to a stop and the boys jumped off poking and prodding one another as they slipped out around a few people who were getting on; three young Asian girls who spoke in a language he assumed was Asian, an older man in a black overcoat with an umbrella, thick glasses and a black fedora and a homeless woman with a bag of bags wearing late 20th century gypsy apparel. He had only glanced at the door as they boarded but somehow the old woman had caught him looking, which made him feel uncomfortable, as if he’d been staring but he hadn’t and he didn’t know why he felt this way but he did and he looked away, out the window and rain started to fall again. Hitting the window in vertical streaks, but as the streetcar begins to move forward, they streak back at increasing angles, eventually pushing straight back at the end of its descent from the heavens.
He continued staring out the window for the next few stops, seeing no farther than the drops of rain on the opposite side of the glass from him; watching as the drops changed due to the dampness of the window, the speed of the streetcar, the rate of rainfall which didn’t seem to escalate much past a spittle of fat drops, slowing now and then to almost nothing. Fat drops. He wondered, as he approached his stop, if he could walk between them. Just past Burnside, another block and then off the streetcar; he stood, walked towards the door, looking across the car for a moment at the gypsy woman who had seated herself just past the door from him, facing him, looking at him as the train came to a stop as he looked at her, smiled as if to make up for some slight, he wondered if he had committed, and he looked away towards the door he approached, the doors still closed, having to pause and wait, sure that she was still looking at him. The doors opened and he stepped off, tripping over the leash of a teacup poodle whose person had not noticed it wander away as she stepped on to the train, more concerned about the rain that now picked up to a full shower. He caught himself as the dog whipped out in front of him, reaching down to grab the dog so that it wouldn’t fly to far, mostly to save face, to not appear as an abuser of animals. It nipped at him as he caught it and quickly put it down and the woman at the other end of the leash shot Stephen a reproachful glare as she said, “come on Muffy,” as he stood back up, looking down at this short round woman in her Columbia sportswear jacket, hood pulled tight around her face. Muffy. Really? Muffy? And looking at her old and pinched face, he remembered that it was Halloween and that he had plans for the evening which he had totally forgotten about and now wished he hadn’t made. He walked down the street and as quick as the downpour had started it stopped, returning to the large occasional drops as he walked another block then it stopped all together and he thought about calling in sick.