When It Rains, It Pours
It was a Friday. Definitely a Friday when I met him. I still have this stupid grin on my face when it crosses my mind. The broken sidewalk leading up to the library. The heat of Southern Sunlight across my top lip. Stevie Wonder was so loud that morning.
My new shades had speakers in them, and I was way more obsessed than an adult walking down the street should have been. But who can argue with Signed, Sealed, Delivered?
“Mmnn mnm and said goodbye. Mmmm mnm not ashamed to cry!”
I was doing this little dance walk combo. A bit of pianist mixed with a dash of backup singer. I can guarantee I was havin’ a grand ol’ time. Music has a habit of sweeping me away, mind, body, and soul. The thing is, I was having so much fun that I forgot to look where I was going.
“Here I am, Signed, Sealed, Delivered! I’m yo-Ah!”
The last 3 millimeters of my sneaker sole nicked the uneven pavement, taking my rhythm and mental music video with it. I was torn between bracing for impact and hopping around to catch my balance. The indecisive, in between stance caused the most awkward, unchangeable moment of my life.
My left knee dug into his inner thigh, just shy of irreparable harm, at the same time my short nails carved crescents into his forearm.
“Oh shit,” I rasped. “Holy crap. Are you ok? I am so sorry. Are you ok?” My head snapped up in search of a face.
“Whoa there!” The responding chuckle actually held humor. It’s owner held me upright with an arm as the other rubbed the recently acquired leg injury. “Slow down a second missy. Might take out several lower regions at that pace.”
A muscle under my ear tightened painfully at the word ‘missy’. I hate that word especially from unknown men, but my lips trembled at his usage.
Okay, so maybe the joke was a little funny.
“Don’t call me missy,” I laughed.
“Well, what should I call you? Or should I say when?”
My eyebrows leapt up my face, and then I blinked. And blinked. And blinked one more time.
His head tilted, but he didn’t say another word. Just stared down at me with unwavering brown eyes.
“Oh wow. That was like… you really did that…”
My lips split wide and I bellowed. Full-bodied, chest squeezing, tear streaming laughter. I couldn’t help it! My sides begged for mercy, but I couldn’t stop laughing. This man was… He was confident for one, I’d give him that.
Once I realized a new song was playing in my ears, I reached up to pause my music. It was only at that point that I realized he had been cradling me to his chest the entire time.
“Uh…” Trying not to be rude, I gently eased myself out of his grip. I took a couple steps back before meeting his gaze again. “Thank you. For holding me up. And catching me too. That would have sucked 5 sure.”
The corners of his mouth twitch. “5 sure?”
“Well yeah. Like ‘for sure’ or ‘forever’, but when it’s worse. Or more, you could say.”
“Mhmm.” Even his flirtatious agreement was mildly condescending.
I restrained myself from rolling my eyes. Makes the apology a bit insincere I would say.
“I’m also sorry about almost taking out your uh, sensitive bits. I wasn’t paying attention, which was definitely my L.”
With a shake of his head, he crossed his arms and leaned against the high wall beside us. The lack of bothered this man exuded caught me off guard. Most men that are this openly interested and relaxed harbor incredibly problematic habits. In my experience. Yet, with that being said, I genuinely do not feel threatened by this man! And that sets off all kinds of alarms.
“You don’t have to keep apologizing, you know. You missed, and I can walk perfectly fine. No harm, no foul. I’d still like to know what I can call you and when. I take it missy was a bad call, and I’d like to make the right one.”
My laughter almost chokes me this time. The mystery smooth talker rushes over at my spluttering coughs, alternating between rubbing and patting my back.
“Too much?” he asked.
“Way,” I rasped.
“My bad. I’ll chill.”
“Greatly appreciated.” My voice is a bit hoarse, and I doubt my throat has any love for me after all this. “Look, you seem like a mildly suspicious person, but not exactly dangerous. You could be a pretty nice guy, but I’m not really big on trust… or romantic relationships.”
The confusion clouding his face screamed lost puppy. I smoothed the lines on his forehead without thinking. They just didn’t belong there.
We watched each other then. I looked at the small scars littering his jaw. The curves of his eyes and the softness in his cheeks imprinted into my mind’s eye. The brown of his skin seemed endless. Everything about him had me enchanted, kept me reeling.
It was distracting.
“You sure you can’t trust me?” he murmured.
I wasn’t prepared for the weight of the sadness in his voice. The disappointment seeped into my chest, making me frown in discomfort.
“Stop that,” I huffed. Taking a healthy step back, I took a deep breath to gather my thoughts. What was with this guy?
I’d started to get the feeling clueless would’ve been putting it lightly, as far as his disposition went.
“The wounded puppy act! It’s really hard to stay focused.”
A cold look took over then, and his gaze left me for the first time. I felt colder, somehow, without it.
“Don’t call me a puppy?”
The strain in his plea wasn’t lost on me. Seemed like a weird thing to get hung up over, but I couldn’t talk. I’d made a small ‘missy’ fuss and he took it on the chin.
“Alrighty… Not puppy. Could you maybe… I dunno. I just feel so damn guilty when you look all sad and stuff, so can you stop?” Shoving my hands in my front pockets, my body starts to bounce slightly.
I can’t stand getting all mushy and feelingsy. Incredibly uncomfortable on a microscopic level. My armpits start to sweat, my legs start itching, things of that nature. And something about this highly invested stranger was sending everything out of whack.
“Why are you so stressed out about not getting to know me anyways?”
“Cuz I’ll regret not knowing you for the rest of my life.” His eyes were steady on me again. There wasn’t an ounce of hesitation in his answer. No embarrassment either. All I could find was absolute certainty.
My sigh could have knocked down a house, the way this whole encounter stressed me out. The shadow of a massive cloud covered the bright Sun then, the shade a welcome guest. The wind brushed along my face as I mulled everything over.
“I could not be into guys, ya know.” The retort was half-assed even to my own ears.
“That’s real. If you tell me I’m not the gender for you, I’ll walk away right now.”
I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at that point.
“But, on the off chance that I do check the right box, I’d really like to get to know you. And maybe buy you lunch sometime?”