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Rain

Eventually you get tired of the rain. Eventually you get tired of shuffling footsteps on sidewalks covered in chewing gum and dog shit. Eventually you get tired of the same paper filing job for Somebody who is really a Nobody in a town this big. Eventually you get tired.

The rain started the second weekend of February. Some days the clouds burned off early, leaving the earthy wet smell of sins washed away in little rivulets down the pavement. Mostly, though, the rain meant the soggy smell of wet dress socks and leather loafers inside of my crowded office. The rain meant bumping up against somebody’s dripping umbrella in a crowded subway train and wishing you hadn’t worn your nice coat or slacks to work. The rain meant the air was stale with the same gloom that had been residing over me ever since Clara and I split.

Everyday on my way back from work I passed an old woman, sitting on a bench at the park. She rattled an old empty coffee tin at me and in a voice as gruff as man’s she said, “Change?”

As a kid I was taught to ignore these people. “Don’t make eye contact. Don’t look towards them.” My mom would say, tugging my arm so that I’d walk briskly away from the beggars, “Don’t acknowledge their presence, and certainly don’t give them any money!”

Today, though, I stopped; shushed my mom’s voice in the back of my head. The woman looked up at me, her chin smudged with the muddy grime caking the streets after the storm. “Change?” She said, again, like maybe I hadn’t heard her the first time. The bench she sat on was painted green, though at least a hundred teenagers had etched their initials, and the initials of the ones that they loved, into the paint revealing the rusting metal underneath. She shook the can again, making the quarters and dimes jump in their container. She was wearing a grey hooded sweatshirt with elbows worn thin and holes along the cuffs. The thing was wet from the rain, though she had a soggy newspaper umbrella on the bench next to her. “Well don’t stare,” She finally snapped. “Either drop me a penny or keep on walking.”

“I have more than money for you,” I said. I don’t know why I did it. My mom would not have been proud.

“Umph?” She grunted.

I ran my hand through the short dark hairs at the top of my head. “Why don’t you come to my place. I owe you that.”

“You don’t owe me nothin’,” She said, the scratch in her voice had to have come from a pack a day or more for at least the last twenty years. She coughed then, out into the open, making no move to cover her mouth.

I might have flinched. “Really,” I said, lowering my voice, “I’ll get you a hot meal, buy you some new clothes from Goodwill, and send you back out on your way again. I have a little apartment, two bedrooms, not far from here.”

“Fine,” she said.

Back in the apartment she drank a cup of coffee, four packets of Splenda and one “lick of cream.” We started talking; she’d been on the streets now for 20 years. Drugs, heroin. Schizophrenic, ran out of meds, ran away from home. She’d done her best to clean herself up but $13.75 a week collecting coins in the park certainly wasn’t going to pay any bills. She’d quit the drugs when she could no longer afford them. “Enough about me,” She said. “The whole world knows why I’m glum. Why’re you so down on life?” She might have been from the south originally, with an accent like that.

I told her about Clara, about how she’d left after college, gone home. Swore we’d have a long distance relationship, and we did, until the calls dwindled down to nothing until finally her new relationship with Chris Evans popped up into my newsfeed. Long distance my ass. The woman, Maya, said to me, “Di’ja ever just get outta town after her?”

“Maya, are you telling me to run from my problems?” We both laughed, finished our coffee. She slurped her bowl of soup and wiped up her spill with her sleeve. I didn’t mind that as much as I normally would have.

In the morning, I walked Maya to her bench, made sure she was comfortable, and got on my train to work. But when the tram stopped at Grand Central Station, I didn’t get out and go to work. Instead, I got on the next train to Somewhere. Sometimes you just get sick of the rain.

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