The Woman in the Rain

He saw her standing in the rain under the lamppost on 22nd Avenue, just up the road from Fulton. Henry had been hurrying down Fulton back to his car, deploring the wetness around him, when he’d seen the woman. She stood on the curb, facing the street. Around her, raindrops shot like comets from the blackness and briefly caught on fire in the pool of light. Henry slowed his pace as he crossed the street towards her. The woman was wearing a long, dark red trench coat and matching boots. She had no umbrella. Her hair hung limply around her head, gathered into wet tendrils. Her jacket sleeves looked like gutters spilling water onto her hands. The water ran off her fingertips, following the straight line of her arms. Her face was tilted upward. He followed her stare, but there was nothing but the black, rain-filled night sky. The woman did not move. Henry suddenly worried for her. It was a cold night. She was alone. Maybe something had happened to her. He turned from the crosswalk, his enormous umbrella held up like a shield in combat, and walked towards her. She did not look at him as he approached. “Miss, are you okay?” The woman did not answer. “Miss?” Henry held his umbrella out so that it covered her as well. She jumped as the umbrella passed before her gaze. “Oh, sorry,” she said, “I didn’t realize you were talking to me.” Henry looked around at the empty streets for the other person to whom she might have thought he was

talking. She backed out from beneath his umbrella, “I’m quite all right, thank you,” she said with a smile. Her smile was lovely. She was a pretty woman, with a sharp nose and large dark eyes. Somehow her sopping hair and moistened features made her seem exotic. Her accent sounded British. Henry thought it would be too cliché to ask her where she was from. “Sorry to bother you,” Henry said, feeling embarrassed. He straightened the umbrella and turned. “I realize I must look a bit of a loon,” the woman called after him. Henry turned back to look at her. “Or some other water bird.” He smiled. “I just love the rain. Always have,” the woman said, looking down at the lit up street in front of her. It was alive with water, full of raindrops making pathetic leaps back towards the sky, searching for the safety of their mother cumulonimbus cloud. “Fair enough,” Henry said, feeling sudden warmth for this strange, wet woman, “I just thought you must be freezing.” “Oh, but I have cold London blood pumping through these veins.” Henry was struck again by the beauty of the woman’s smile. “I’m San Francisco, born and raised,” Henry said, “You won’t catch me without an umbrella!” He lifted his umbrella slightly and they both laughed. A moment of silence passed between them. Henry wondered why a British woman was standing in the rain in San Francisco, but didn’t think it polite to ask. He found himself watching the rain run off of her chin, like a long silver beard. The woman spoke finally, “Well, thank you again for your display of chivalry.

That was very sweet.” “Yes, well,” Henry suddenly felt very nervous, “Of course! Anything I can do for foreign relations.” The woman chuckled, and seemed on the verge of speaking. “Have a good night,” Henry said quickly. He caught one last glimpse of her smile and started walking away. Each step was filled with the thought of how he could proceed. How could he make the conversation go on longer? He could suggest that he show her around San Francisco. Maybe she was new to the area. But she was odd, standing in the rain alone, without an umbrella. Perhaps she was too odd for him. Perhaps she thought him odd too, for speaking to her on a lonely street. His head was so busy with these thoughts that he nearly walked past his car. He looked back, suddenly determined. Rain poured over his umbrella, and made Henry feel like he was on the inside of a waterfall looking out. The street lamp and the woman were obscured by the house on the corner. Henry shook his head and got into the Pontiac, careful to keep the umbrella above him until he was safely inside. He started the car and looked in the rear view mirror, towards the empty street corner. He could see an edge of the street lamp’s busy light. He put his car into gear and drove away. Lying in bed that night, listening to rain drops knocking on his windows and roof, he thought of the woman. He wondered what she’d felt, opening herself to the sky, rain running along her skin, soaking her. He supposed he’d done that as a child. He couldn’t really remember.

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