Yesterday, while I was at work, I decided to take a walk up the street to get a little treat after dinner. I had brought my food, but I work in a windowless basement to which I refer as the sensory deprivation chamber, and I needed to get out and get some fresh air before I lost my mind on my sixth day of work in a row.
When I got above-ground to a place where I could see the outside world, I realized it was raining. Really, really hard. Big, fat plops of rain. What my father would call a “wet rain.”
I debated. Do I really want to go out in that? I have an umbrella, but I don’t know. It’s not windy- it’s coming straight down… but I don’t really want frozen yogurt that much… I was really just looking for an excuse to go outside, but now…
Oh come on, woman. You won’t die. It’s rain.
So I went. I pulled my umbrella out of my purse. (It’s a small, but not too small, umbrella. Lime green. Super cute.)
Jack and I separately fantasize a lot about playing in the rain. I thought of this as I made my first steps up the street, brightly-colored umbrella bobbing among the black and tan boring ones. The rain was temperate – not cold. It wasn’t a particularly hot day, so the rain didn’t bear that especially refreshing feeling, but still, it cleaned the air.
I was rather enjoying it. I was thinking that, sometimes, even walking alone in the rain is romantic.
I had to ignore the big noisy smelly buses and the cars sloshing up and down the street and the homeless guy yelling that he loved me (which is not romantic), but I kept with the vibe.
I had worn jeans to work (my declarative statement about working an extra day), with kicky bronze strappy sandals. They were starting to get a little wet. I had avoided the streams of water at the curbs and jumped over the river that was running from a store’s downspout out to the street (curiously, the rain that comes from this downspout is always soapy-looking, leading me to wonder what exactly is going on on that roof). And the bottoms of my jeans were getting wet, too.
Still, it wasn’t a bad walk.
At the frozen yogurt place, the mixed vanilla and chocolate dispenser was taking forever to drool my fat-and-sugar-free goodness into the cup. I had to hold my dripping umbrella in the hand that was also holding the cup, while the other hand held the lever down to dispense the swirls. Helplessly, I watched chocolate yogurt drip into the umbrella.
Okay, well… maybe I can wipe it off before I go out.
When I had finished putting fatty and sugary toppings on my fat-and-sugar-free yogurt, I paid, and walked out into the rain again. I had forgotten to try to wipe off the inside of the umbrella, and now little rivulets of chocolate threatened to drip onto my clothes as I walked.
I mused about how chocolate rain is not as great as we might think.
With the umbrella over my head, I couldn’t eat the frozen yogurt as I walked. I had to just hold it, awkwardly, passing people on the sidewalk who looked at me like, “Aren’t you gonna eat that?” I had tried in vain to find a way to make it work, but alas… the spoon was clutched impotently in my umbrella-holding hand.
The river of sudsy water coming from the business’s downspout had grown. I couldn’t jump over it.
My feet and kicky bronze strappy sandals were drenched. That meant I couldn’t change my stride or my feet would slide in the sandals and I’d twist my ankle or break a strap.
The bottom six inches of my jeans were sopping. And, increasingly, the upper reaches, around my thighs, were getting wet where the rain was dripping off the outside of my umbrella onto me as I walked.
By the time I got back to work, my Romantic Walk in the Rain For One had become pretty damned uncomfortable.
I glanced in the wall mirror as I beeped my way back in with my keycard. Somehow, a chunk of my hair had gotten wet. Really wet. I hadn’t felt it happening. Now I had that really awesome 3/4 styled but now flat, 1/4 wet and hopeless look going on.
And I still hadn’t had a spoonful of my frozen yogurt.
Back at my desk, my co-worker looked at me. “Oh, is it raining?” she asked.
“No, I just walked through a car wash on my way back,” I replied, feeling street-grit on the bottoms of my feet and between my toes.
I sent Jack an email. “I just went for a walk in the rain. I had an umbrella, but the bottom 12 inches of me is soaked. Walking in the rain is much better when you’re not working.”
I won’t tell you what his reply was. Suffice it to say it was to do with the wet jeans.
Come to think of it, I realized, there are a lot of things we tend to imagine as romantic that often turn out not to be. The conditions have to be just right, don’t they? It’s a controlled experiment, those romantic notions-come-true. I remember (how could I forget?) the night that my first and longtime love showed up at my door to ask me for another chance. He had broken my heart over and over again for years, and I had finally closed the book on us. He lived 700 miles away. He had driven 10 and a half hours, by himself, and showed up with a bottle of wine and a single white rose.
Sounds so amazing, doesn’t it?
It wasn’t. It totally sucked.
First of all, there was no music when I opened the door. No Puccini (in case I wanted him back). No Gloria Gaynor or Beyonce’ (in case I didn’t). There was only stunned silence and a big mess of unpleasant emotion. There was no holding each other in our arms and kisses on the head and nose and mouth and murmurs of “I’m so glad you’re here.” There was no sense of female empowerment when I told him he’d used all his chances and he’d thought I wasn’t good enough then, and he didn’t deserve me now. I said it with some pretty convincing movie star chutzpah, but there was snot running out of my nose and my eyes were all puffed up, so the cinematic quality didn’t really come through. And then he left, and I opened the wine and got myself a little drunk, and nothing funny happened after that.
So. Walk In the Rain For One: Not romantic.
Old Love Returns, Begging For Forgiveness and Another Chance: Not romantic.
Chocolate Rain: Not awesome. (Very disappointing.)
I am a romantic. I think all writers are. And it gets me in trouble. We have these expectations, and then when we find ourselves in those situations we’d thought would be so wonderful, we realize something is missing somehow from our grand idea of how it would be.
So I think it’s the other moments, the other situations, the ones we never imagine, when we find ourselves overwhelmed with how wonderful it is. Maybe not the first kiss from the person we adore, but the sixth, on a random night at a random spot in the house, after an ordinary evening with ordinary people in an ordinary place, for no reason at all except because he wanted to kiss you. That’s the one that takes your breath away. That’s the one you remember.
Romance isn’t what we think. It’s what we never imagined. I’ll still go for walks in the warm summer rain, and maybe someday the schedules will sync up so that Jack and I can walk together. But next time, it’s going to be in something other than jeans and sandals.