I didn’t care about the rain falling around me. I didn’t care about the slick streets or the dark clouds above. I didn’t care that he had just disappeared behind the crowd of people that swarmed in front of me. Sam was there, and I had to meet him and apologize.
Shuffling through the crowd and the soaked city streets battered me with both bodies and water. While I ran, and only half-aware of where my feet took me, my mind wandered back through the past few weeks. Back to the yelling. To the tense silences. To the leaving each other and the door slamming. To the thoughts of, What have I done?
Damn it, why’d we have to have a fight like that? It hadn’t even been our first fight, so what the hell? Why didn’t we work out that one like all the others? I’d asked myself those questions so much, I lost count. Except I knew the answer already, so why did I ask at all?
“Now you’re the only one thinking of solutions? Then why don’t you come up with a good one?” His words, not mine. Agitation had grabbed him earlier, and it bled out like that. At me.
“Last I checked, I still made the money around here!”
Why did I say that to him? Sam had it no better at the time, not when he lost his job just days after the landlord raised the rent. That cut down on our ability to pay the bills by half, causing us to fall out of sync with each other. On a normal day, we could gauge what the other felt or wanted by instinct alone. No so much after the rent increase and the job loss. Having to deal with a string of rowdy customers at my own work place exasperated my mood and more. When was the last time either of us could think with a clear head?
My train of thought came to an abrupt halt when I crashed into a random stranger on the street. How I managed to weave through the mob from seconds ago and not the one stray person after that, I couldn’t say, but the crash flew by quick and so did I. Bounced right to the edge of the sidewalk and collided with somebody’s red Honda. Good gravy, that hurt—from a simple misstep, too. The pain shook me up as I staggered back on course. Once I returned to the sidewalk, though, the steady rain ballooned into a waterfall.
Eff this downpour, seriously. How could I think otherwise after it spiked on me? On top of that, some stupid car flew by and kicked up water from the nearby puddle. Just what I needed—splashed by the rain from above and the puddle from below. Yeah, today’s going real well so far.
Gritting my teeth, and still reeling somewhat from having hit that Honda, I swiveled my head back and forth. Where did Sam go? He hadn’t changed his tan trench coat, based on what I saw earlier; hell, he hadn’t changed it in the past six years, and it bared the frays and patches as proof. I remembered those details well, much like the rest of him, to the point I could spot either the coat or its owner from a mile away.
Or in this case, one block down from where I stopped to look. Sam slipped by another corner not even a second later, so I bolted. Along the way, I raised an arm to block at least a little bit of the rain, which worked about as well as it could have before the wind smacked more water in my face. This forced my eyes to the ground instead of what lay ahead of me, so I didn’t notice the slight rise in the sidewalk until I tripped over it.
I couldn’t keep myself from falling; I’d gone too fast for a clean stop. The alternative would’ve looked stupid to an outsider, though, because I fell in slow motion. My knees hit the pavement first, then my hands shot out to catch the rest of me, and I landed stomach down. Bracing for the impact like that mitigated some of the pain. I rose to stand again with more soaked clothes, scratched palms, and maybe a couple specs of gravel.
“Sam!” His name popped out of me on reflex. In fact, I took a second or two to realize I’d done that.
If he heard the shout, he didn’t answer. After I pulled the I’m the only one working here card that day, I couldn’t blame him for the silent act he’d put on afterwards. I’d known finding another job preoccupied most of his time, I’d watched him search, and I had to throw that card at him. No matter how stressful my own job had become at the time, no matter how often he blew his top over it—which had occurred all of twice—I shouldn’t have lashed out at him like that.
On the day he’d walked out, he said, “Going to stay with a friend tonight; see you,” and left with a duffel bag, his laptop, and his phone. And like an idiot, I didn’t start thinking what have I done? until after he had shut the door behind him. Maybe denial delayed it, but not even a minute later, I’d begun kicking myself for letting all the bad go so far.
The two weeks that followed reminded me of everything I stood to lose if I didn’t make amends. The loving smile of him thanking me in silence for the simple but tasty meal I just cooked. Joking and horsing around with the friend who knew me best in my life. The finishing-each-other’s-sentences thing we teased ourselves about. The absolute assurance that came from his arms around my shoulders to let me know everything would be all right. The simple warmth of knowing he’d be close if I were scared. Of knowing he appreciated it when I returned the favor.
And I’d driven it all away.
Our past fights had been over and done in the span of a day or two, even the more serious ones where we said things we shouldn’t have and didn’t really mean. However, I could count them all on one hand, including our most recent spat. Most of the time consisted of all that good I mentioned before—every little moment I didn’t want to lose. Not forever. Not when it had stayed with us despite our other fights and kept us strong. What was one more in the face of countless happy memories?
We had promised each other this: “We’ll look after each other, always.” Our thoughts had synced up so well then, we said the words at the same time. A consequence of how well we understood each other. A testament to our bond, which meant enough to me, and him, to fight for and keep through any trouble tossed our way, even rent and job complications.
The memory of that gave me the energy to put one foot forward, then another. The sky could dump as much rain as it wanted on me, but I’d reach Sam somehow and tell him I’m sorry. Even if he never forgave me, I’d say it. I called out his name again but didn’t break stride.
Following the trail of that frayed trench coat he always wore led me to cross the street. The rain had calmed to more reasonable levels, making it easier to see. I focused on Sam so as not to lose sight of him again, but the blaring of a car horn and the next three or four clumsy steps and near-trips suggested I had focused too well.
My chest heaved with every gasp of breath before I hacked up a loud sneeze. The second it left my system, an ache shot through my gut and back like a pole jabbed me. Oh, crap, not now—
I waited to make sure I hadn’t pulled a muscle or done anything worse, then broke into a run. It didn’t last, not when both legs had turned to rubber and I gasped deep enough to feel off balance. Two staggering steps later, and I tumbled right against a metal trash can. As for Sam, I couldn’t find him. No sign of the tan trench coat anywhere. I flopped onto the trash lid, growing numb to everything except the rain.
Some time passed, maybe a few minutes tops, although I didn’t bother counting. The one time I moved at all happened when another car horn screamed maybe about a block and a half ahead of me. I turned my head to figure out what had caused the near-miss that just happened, only to watch a car speed by and splash me with yet another dose of water. Aside from a quick flinch, I remained still.
Another minute passed and I heard footsteps approaching, followed by a familiar voice. “Hey… you all right? What happened?”
Sam’s voice. No mistake about it. Which meant he was close. Goodness, I must’ve looked like a limp, soaked ragdoll someone had thrown away. That did nothing to boost my confidence. Right when I needed my voice to work, I couldn’t find it. I bit my lower lip instead, my thoughts rattled from my spectacular fail of a run.
This is what you wanted, I reminded myself. A chance to talk to him. A chance to make things better, to be better. Just say you’re sorry.
But what if he doesn’t accept?
No. No. Say your piece. Get it out. Whatever happens next is what happens. It’ll be okay if you say it knowing you were honest.
After arguing with myself, I pushed off the trash can and raised my head, and there before me stood Sam. The more I studied him, the more blemishes on him I noticed. His jacket and shirt clung to him, no doubt thanks to all the rain and the puddles. Mud smears coated his face like a painted-on beard. When he took a careful step towards me, he limped as if he had just managed to curb the worst of a bad stumble. Most of all, he looked as tired as I felt. He even sounded out of breath.
Why, though? What did he do to look like such a mess? Why was he standing in front of me if he were still angry? I had wanted to find him for so long to apologize, but what about him?
Oh, son of a— I’m such an idiot.
I knew Sam. Really knew him. How could I not after our two years together and countless years of friendship from before? So I knew the answer already. He’d done the same thing I had—fumbled through the city streets in a downpour to find me. To talk to me. His worried face said as much.
I ambled my way to him as he mirrored my own movements. Once we stood but half a foot apart, my head fell against him. His arms curled around my shoulders, pressing me close to him and keeping both of us from falling further. I put my own arms around his torso. The rain had drenched us real bad, but that didn’t stop me from feeling the warmth of his presence against my own.
Sam squeezed me a little. “Were you looking for me, too? I thought I heard you shout.”
“I had to,” I said. “I had to tell you… had to talk to you, before you disappeared.”
He laughed, breathless, and I felt him quiver in my hold. “That’s funny. That’s what I thought when I saw you just now.”
“You didn’t stay still. Took me a while to—”
“—find me? And say sorry for being an idiot and that we’ll get better together? Just like me?”
“Yes. To all of that. I’m so sorry…” I still gasped for air from all my running, but a laugh bubbled out of me anyway. “So we both charged through this stupid storm, and almost got hit by cars—”
“—for the same reason, yeah. And now we’re soaking wet. Probably could’ve picked a nicer day for making up.”
“Yeah. Worth it, though.”
“Definitely. I couldn’t stay mad at you. I missed you. And this, minus the rain.”
“Same.” I raised one of my arms just enough to deliver the lightest bump of a punch ever on his chest. The other arm stayed slung around him. “Dork-o, what are you copying me for…?”
“You’re the dork-o, copying me.” He bopped my head before snuggling it.
We didn’t move for a while—too tired and too happy. By the time we started back to the apartment, hand in hand, the rain let up enough that the clouds brightened from the sun shining behind them.
About freakin’ time.