I hated the rain. And I loved the rain. How such a simple metrological phenomenon could bring out such diverse emotions within me, I didn’t know.
I couldn’t tell if the soft, constant pounding in my ear was caused by the droplets crashing against the window, or by my fingers which rhythmically tapped along the sill in my boredom. I stared out at the blurry landscape before me. Even despite this weather, the streets were full of cars and the sidewalks full of pedestrians. People went on with their lives and never paid attention to the everyday miracles around them.
That was something Derrick had taught me, to appreciate everything in life. One can never tell when their time is up, so I’ve decided to look for the beauty in everything around me.
Rain has always been a symbol of sorrow. Watch a funeral scene in a movie and nine times out of ten it will be raining. I don’t know where this connection ever came from.
I always viewed the rain as one of the greatest miracles of nature. We find more life around us after a rainstorm than any other time. The grass is greener, the bird songs are more melodic, and everything seems brighter.
The rain reminds me of renewal, not sadness.
My philosophy had been enough to pass the time. The clouds had parted, the rain had cleared, and a fine mist covered the landscape. I walked to my dresser and picked out a nice pair of jeans that fight me in all the right places and a nice red polo to top it off.
I was due to meet Chad in half an hour and I always liked to arrive ten minutes early, so I set off out of the apartment and to the nearest bus stop.
I had made myself familiar with the bus schedules even though all my classes were within walking distance of the apartment, just in case I needed to get around downtown. With my trusty Mapquest printout in my pocket in case I should lose my bearing, I boarded the next bus that arrived and set out.
All of the seats were filled, but I didn’t mind standing. I’m certain that the seats would be heavily soaked form the previous passengers who were not indoors at the time of the drizzle.
After about fifteen minutes, the bus had finally come to the stop I had been waiting for and I departed. I double checked the sheet in my pocket to confirm my location and discovered my impeccable sense of direction had not failed me. The restaurant was only a few storefronts away and I hastened my step, checking my watch several times to confirm my promptness as well.
The aroma of burgers and fried foods hit me almost instantaneously as I walked in and I scanned to see Chad’s spiky hair poking out from behind a booth near the other end of the bar. He must have spotted me too since he quickly waved in my direction.
I approached the booth and he stood up and extended his hand while saying, “Thanks for coming mate. I’m glad I could do something to thank you for all the help you’ve given me so far.”
“No problem Chad.” He gestured for me to take a seat at the other side of the booth and I obliged.
“I haven’t eaten forever and I’m starved. Don’t worry though, order whatever you want, it’s all on me.”
A waitress soon approached and took our drink orders, he had lemonade, and I a Diet Pepsi.
He was wearing a more loose fitting long sleeve with the Wisconsin Badger’s proudly embroidered upon it, as well as khaki cargo shorts.
“So tell me,” he inquired from behind the menu he was scanning through, “how did a genius like you ever end up here at Madison? Shouldn’t you be doing some kind of research at Harvard or something?” he said as he set down the menu, a large smirk across his face.
“Please,” I said rolling my eyes. “I’m no genius to speak of; I just like to think I have a very good memory. Trust me though; it can be a blessing and a curse.”
“How so,” he asked with genuine concern in his eyes.
“Jus some bad memories of the past, best left in the past.”
“And what about you then, what’s an ‘Aussie’ like yourself doing all the way up here in Wisconsin? I hope I said that correctly.”
“You did, sort of,” he said with a chuckle. “It’s actually pronounced more like ‘Ozzie.’ Anyway, I basically earned the scorn of my oldies and wanted to get as far away from them as possible, so I moved O.S.”
He must’ve noticed the slight look of confusion on my face, since he continued “Sorry, I’m still getting used to you Americans. What I meant to say was...my parents hated me and the feeling was mutual. So I wanted to guarantee I would have minimal contact with them.. I looked at U.S. colleges and this one just sparked my interest. Couldn’t say why. Anyway, I moved here and started college last year.”
The waitress had brought our drinks by now and took our orders. He had a half pound burger and fires, and I a salad.
“Do you mind if I borrowed your drink for a second?” I asked him.
“Sure, just don’t slip me anything,” he sad with a grin.
I poured a small amount of his lemonade into my soda and gave it back to him.
“I just can’t stand the soda plain,” I admitted to him. “Anywho, what caused the rift between you and your parents, if I may so inquire?”
“Well, it started when I was fifteen and they happened to come home early from a vacation to find me in a rather ‘intimate’ position with a classmate of mine.”
“So, they took me out of school and forbid me from seeing him ever again.”
“Yep. My parents sent me to a psychiatrist to try and, in their words, ‘root out the problem.’ They sent me to a new one when the first told them there was nothing wrong with me. One day, when I was seventeen, I hopped on a bus and went to the only other place I felt safe, my uncles house. My uncle Steve had been one of hose who was not invited to family reunions for obvious reasons and I felt comfortable going to him for help. He was reluctant when I showed up on his doorstep, but he took me in nonetheless and communication with my parents all but stopped. Steve tried to convince me to stay in tough with, and even move back in with my parents, but I wouldn’t have it.”
“Anyway, the family first found out about him when he contracted AIDS when I was twelve. He got it from a boyfriend who had quickly left him. The family was shocked and simply ended contact with him, although I kept in touch since even then I knew about myself. When I was nearly eighteen, Steve took a turn for the worse. I tried to get a hold of my parents and other family, but no one would listen. A month later, I was the only one at his funeral.”
“My God Chad, I’m so sorry.” I placed my hand on his folded ones in a gesture that was completely sympathetic in nature.”
“It’s all right. What I didn’t realize was that Uncle Steve had left me everything in his will with only one instruction, ‘Go to college and show everyone that you are worth everything.’ So I took my inheritance and looked for colleges. While I was staying with Uncle Steve, I competed what you would consider high school. I got accepted to Madison and came here.”
“That’s quite a story Chad, I’m sorry you had to go through all that. I understand the kind of pain you must’ve felt, trust me I do.”
He removed one of his hands and placed it on top of mine. “Thanks Tommy, I appreciate it, trust me I do.”
Our conversations afterward had taken a much happier tone, We shared our educational plans and little bits about our lives. I neglected to mention anything about Derrick.
As we were laughing at each others stories, he finally asked the question I had been dreading all night. “So tell me, how is it a smart, funny bloke like you hasn’t found a nice Sheila yet?”
I simply hadn’t prepared myself enough for it, all my pent up emotions finally poured out automatically. I told him everything, about Derrick, about the band room, about my ‘accident,’ and about the crash. I don’t know what came over me, but I began sobbing uncontrollably, right in the middle of this crowded restaurant.
As if fate had decided to reverse roles upon me, Chad scooted over, sitting next to me and took me in his arms. He rubbed my back with one hand and guided my head into his shoulder with the other. I stopped sobbing because I was completely awestruck. Here was this muscular hunk holding a sobbing guy like me in the middle of this crowded bar without any regard for anyone else but me.
My mind suddenly flashbacked to the very first time I ever kissed Derrick. Back then, the roles had been completely reversed, and I now felt as if I truly understood what was going through his mind back then.
I moved my head back far enough to look into his consoling eyes. He looked at me and said, “Maybe we should continue this someplace a little more private.” He stood up and threw a $20 dollar bill onto the table and guided me out of the restaurant onto the sidewalk.
“I’m sorry Chad, I didn’t mean to burst out like that, it’s just…”
“Hey, don’t worry about it, I understand.” He paused for several moments as we began walking down the sidewalk together. “Tommy?”
“Yeah Chad?” I was wiping away the salty residue on my face from my outpour in the meantime.
“Can I say something that I think we’ve both been wanting to say for a while?”
We both stopped and looked at each other. He went on. “I understand completely if your still recovering after the loss of Derrick, and I don’t want you to think that I’m trying to take advantage of you like this, but…”
“I really would like to get to know you better, you seem like a great person and any guy would be lucky to have someone as caring, smart, and cute as you. Tommy, I’d like to see you again…outside of class.”
“But if your uncomfortable at all, I understand,” he interjected.
I grabbed his shirt, pulled him in nice and close and pressed my lips against him. His hand guided itself to the back of my head and we shared a beautiful kiss. It was not enflamed with passion or lust, but infused with a gentle understanding and tenderness.
We slowly released one another, our gaze never breaking.
“So is that a yes?” he asked trying to hide the growing smirk upon his face.
“That’s a yes.”
“Come on, I’ll walk you home.”
“Please, that’s like a half hour walk from here Chad!”
“I’ve got the time.”
“In that case, we’d better turn around since my apartment is the other way, unless you’d care to take the really long way home.”
“For you, I have the time.”
I looked up at the clouds gathering overhead, still dark from the previous shower.
“Well just for kicks, let’s take the short route.” I turned around and he followed, walking along side me. It started gently sprinkling as we walked along, but I didn’t care.
The rain reminds me of renewal, not sadness.