"Coffee"
13 Apr 2002
by vulcanviking (Joe White)
Topic: Rain
 
Copyright 2002-2003 by Joe White
 

I was sitting in Ed's Diner when she walked in that night. I barely glanced at her, then did a doubletake and looked again.

She usually had this hairdo that -- well, I won't try to describe it. Let's just say it was awful. Poofy in all the wrong places, made her ears look big and her head look small, and just generally bad.

But rain was coming down in sheets that Halloween night, and her hair was hanging in strings over her face. And somehow it looked -- good. Great. Not to mention the way her drenched shirt was clinging to her, showing a figure I'd never quite noticed before. Something about her that night just blew me away, and I haven't been quite the same since.

She was old Ed's daughter, Kathy. I think she was a junior in college at that time, just a couple years younger than me. I'd chatted with her a few times, when she'd done a stint as waitress at her dad's diner, and I knew her a little from back in the high-school band days. But I'm still not sure why I got up that night, went over to where she was shivering, and offered her my coat. I've always been one to mind my own business, but that night I set it aside.

I remember, now, the sidelong look old Ed gave me from behind the counter as we returned to my table. But hell, I thought then, she's twenty-one -- well, gotta be twenty, anyway -- she can do what she wants. She didn't seem to mind, even smiled at me after I'd bought her the second cup of coffee.

Then it was time for me to head off to work -- I was working as a truck driver at the time, and had a schedule to meet -- and we parted ways.

* * * * *

That was the last rain before winter set in, and the last time I saw Kathy for a while. I didn't get back to Ed's Diner until mid-spring. It was a bright, sunny day, and Kathy was nowhere around. I remembered the glance Ed had given me last time, though, and I didn't ask after her.

A couple weeks later, I'd finally had it with the road, and found a job in town, security guard at the mall. And what should I see walking in one rainy day but Kathy, her hair slicked down from the rain. I took my break, bought her coffee again, and she smiled and thanked me, and we talked for a while. But then, as the rain was easing up, someone hit the alarm -- purse-snatcher -- and I nabbed the guy out in the parking lot, but by the time I got back in, the rain had stopped and Kathy was gone.

* * * * *

And two days later, while I was sitting in my apartment, flipping channels and watching the gentle rain outside the window, there was a knock on my door.

I let her in, we had coffee, a couple of wine coolers, and just talked for a couple of hours. Then she said she had to go. I offered to give her a ride -- it was still raining, even though it looked like it was about to let up -- but she just smiled, gave me a quick kiss on the cheek, and headed out into the drizzle.

Maybe half a minute later, a quick ray of sunlight broke through the clouds and in through my kitchen window.

* * * * *

There was a lot of rain that summer. Mostly little bursts here and there. Hardly a week went by, all summer, that we didn't get some rain.

And I saw Kathy more and more often.

* * * * *

The rain picked up into late fall, and there was a lot of talk about flooding. The creek in the park had swollen, but it still had a good four feet to go before it was over the sidewalks.

It was late afternoon on Halloween, and my landlady was just finishing another of her long-winded speeches about how much better a tenant I was than her last renter, that scumbag who trashed the apartment last Halloween and who was always bringing a different woman over every night anyway, when I saw Kathy through the front window and excused myself. I wasn't expecting her that night, but I was pleased to see her. She and I had gotten... well, we'd gotten real close. She'd been on my mind a lot for the past couple months, ever since that first night she'd let me help her take off her wet clothes.

I got to the stairway, and heard her knocking on my door. And just as I came around the corner and saw her, the damndest thing happened. She just opened the door -- to this day, I swear I had locked that door -- and took half a step in, then stopped dead in her tracks.

I caught up to her on the landing, and tried to see what she was looking at, but the lights were off. I started to ask her what was up, but that look on her face stopped me. Shock, rage, I don't know what. Still haunts me, remembering.

And then she turned and ran down the stairs and out into the rain.

I followed. Down the stairs. Down the street. Into the park. Down to the bridge. Down to --

"Hey!" I yelled after her. "Hey, not that bridge! Wait!"

But she kept running, on down to the bridge that was almost underwater. I hesitated, glanced at the bigger bridge upstream a quarter of a mile, then gritted my teeth and followed her.

She was halfway across the bridge when she slipped and fell. It almost gave me time to catch up. But she got up again, started running, and then -- I still swear -- threw herself against the railing.

I still remember it in slow motion. She didn't jump high enough to clear the railing. Smacked into it and flipped over it like a rag doll.

I still remember the thump of her head against the side of the bridge on her way down.

Maybe I was yelling something, I don't know. I got to the bridge railing and looked for her, but didn't see anything. Maybe I wasn't seeing too clearly right then, I don't know.

Next thing I remember was bursting into the nearest building. Ed's Diner. And shouting that Kathy had gone over the railing, into the stream.

And Ed threw a plate at me -- actually threw it. And shouted that that had been a year ago, and the bastard was gone, and couldn't I leave an old guy in peace.

* * * * *

It was late afternoon a couple days later when I finally sat down and listened, really listened, to my old landlady. About the guy who'd been in my apartment before me.

He'd been a real scumbag, she said. He'd had girls over almost every night, and besides that was this girl who came over almost once a week -- long dark hair, about so long. I suppressed a shiver and asked her to go on.

Halloween the year before. He'd had some girls over, when his girlfriend had arrived to surprise him. And she'd seen him with the other girls, and run out into the park. It had rained a lot that fall, too, and they'd finally found her body, three days later and a mile downstream. They'd called the guy in for questioning, couldn't pin anything on him, and let him go.

* * * * *

It's been years now. I've been through a few more jobs since then, and a few more women. But then it rains. And sooner or later, I can't help looking out the window.

And every time I look out, I see her. Hair plastered down, shirt clinging to her figure, walking in the rain. Somehow no other woman could quite compare.

And last night, I finally couldn't stand it anymore. And I made a cup of coffee, and took it out to her, in the rain. There I was, no coat, rain splashing right into that cup of coffee as I held it out for her. I didn't know if she was really there, didn't know if she could see me.

But then she turned around, looked at me, looked at the coffee. And she reached her rain-soaked arms out to the cup, and smiled.