one rainy night, soon

You will meet me on a rainy night, when the streets shine in the lamplight. You’ll be walking the route you always walk: a right onto Emerson, down two blocks, a left onto Yale. Your umbrella will keep you dry, but not warm --that’s too much to ask for in October. You will huddle into your raincoat and curse yourself lightly for thinking it’s too early in the season for a hat or gloves.

You won’t notice me at first because I’m not at eye level. You’ll see the outline of a form on a stoop and think nothing of it. Who sees huddled forms in the low shadows on a rainy night? You will hear me before you see me.

Sobs will reach your ears, in between the scratchy passing of cars. You will look around to localize the sound, and you’ll be blinded as you scan between the bright lamplight and the night. Your pupils will adjust to the dark --only when they’ve grown large and eager will you perceive me shuddering on the steps.

Sadness, you will think, forgetting the cold momentarily.

But the cold will creep back in when you realize that you don’t know the cause of my misery, you don’t know me. You will feel powerless to help.

You will hesitate. Your instinct will be to comfort me, but endless horror stories (some true, most not) have taught you to ignore your instincts. You will stand there, shifting your weight, wondering which way to move. Continue walking? Approach me? You will sway forward, then turn towards me, then forward again.

I’m gonna get grabbed. Forward.

I’d want someone to help me. Back.

This dance will continue for a few seconds while droplets tap out a steady rhythm on your umbrella. Finally, you’ll arrive at a compromise.

“Hello,” you will call from your safe distance on the sidewalk. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” you’ll hear in response, my words torn from me like wailing babies during a complicated birth.

You’ll hesitate again. You will waver on uncertain legs.

“You don’t sound fine,” you’ll say eventually. “Is there anything I can do?”

Inside, you'll hope I will say no because you are afraid of what I will ask for. You'll hope I will say no because it’s cold and you’re tired and you want to go home.

I won’t say no.

Several hours later, rain will slide down the windows of the coffee shop as we continue talking. You will make a joke about investment bankers and chuckle. I’ll smile for the first time since you’ve known me. You will take a sip of coffee, the mug sitting warm in your hands, and you’ll smile at me.

 “How you doing?” you’ll ask.

“I’m fine,” you’ll hear me answer without the thick voice that chokes back tears. I will sound like I mean the words this time.

And on that rainy night in October, you will save my life.