Near misses

e told me one day about their first kiss.

Six years ago they had been walking along the water and the sun had been winking every few minutes from behind the swiftly passing clouds. Suddenly, a cloud paused, then decided to stay put. Wind, a sheer drop in temperature, rain. They ran to the shelter of a very large, very leafy willow tree and stood very close together on the bridge beneath. She cuddled against him and after an anxious pause, he turned her face toward his and kissed her, softly.

*     *     *

Once we went out for falafel and sat on a rickety bench outside the cafe. While we ate and talked and laughed, the sky clouded over and it started to rain. The lip of the roof covered our heads and we were protected until the hail came. Then it ricocheted off passing cars, off of the table in front of us, off of us. We ran inside to finish eating and the proprietor of the cafe gave us free tea for our trouble.

*     *     *

A few weeks later, we were walking along the water and came to that familiar willow tree. “One year ago, today,” he said. One year ago, what? I wondered, but he didn’t elaborate. Then we went to sit on the dock. While we ate our ice cream and talked and laughed, the sky clouded over and threatened rain, but held off while he told me about their last kiss.

They had been out dancing and she had driven him home. They talked quietly for a few minutes, holding hands, and watching the sky. He kissed her and started to leave, but she held on to his hand as the first drops spattered the windshield. “We have to talk,” she had said, her voice very soft and still. The rain fell harder and streaked down the windows as she calmly explained why she would never kiss him again, never see him again. He slammed the door behind him and walked the last blocks through the rain. That was one year ago.

*     *     *

Weeks later, we had just finished dinner. It had been raining since we sat down at the table. As we finished and washed the dishes, it stopped and the purple of a late sunset crept across receding clouds. When it was dark, we went to stand on the balcony and watch the sky.

“What star is that?” he asked.

“Venus, I think.”

“And there’s der grosse Wagen. What do you call it?”

“Big Dipper. Or the Drinking Gourd. There’s a song about it… Follow the Drinking Gourd. Slaves apparently sang it on their way north. Follow the north star.”

I paused and felt the weight of five-years of failed meteorologically-determined romance hanging in the damp air, making the space between us somehow denser, more impassable.

“Random thought, sorry.”

“I thought it fit very well, just now,” he said.

For a moment I was sad it had stopped raining. We stood in silence, watching the sky. We stood very close together, almost touching. But I did not cuddle against him. He did not kiss me.

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  1. Dr. Hurley’s Digest Volume I: Fiction « Dr. Hurley's Snake-Oil Cure

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