Everything is tinted grey. Even the sound of my feet hitting the wet pavement. Asphalt water flicks off my shoes, splatter-painting the back of my jeans. Heat from the morning sun rises off the concrete making steam. The air is sticky, but all of it feels cold and dark.
The shopping bag goes into the passenger seat. It slides down the leather, leaving a trail of water – its own little river, accented by the bag’s crinkling. As I get my bearings, secure my wallet, and start the car, the windows are already fogged up. I sit back and blast the air for a moment, hoping to see before navigating parallel lines and traffic.
In the minutes it takes for the clouded windows to clear, a car parks in front of me. I can’t hear the engine cut amongst the thunder, but I know it does because the lights flick off. It’s maroon, a little rusted but still a classic. I sit up straight and buckle my seatbelt, preparing to leave. The girl in the maroon car puts her hands to her face. I can’t help but notice. It’s just me and her and cold grey rain; her emotion reflects what’s outside. She’s crying. I can tell because my car is a little higher than hers, so I can watch her without being too obvious. I pull down my hat and fumble with my keys, pretending to be busy.
When her hands fall, they go to the steering wheel, which she pounds. Her long blond hair sways back and forth as she hits it, and her hair sticks to the tears on her face. The whole car rocks a little bit. I look down again, and imagine that if it weren’t storming, I would be able to hear the axels squeak. I make the sound in my head.
Her eyes are puffy and red, and she wipes them furiously with the end of her sweatshirt as she talks aloud. I can’t hear what’s she’s saying, but her eyebrows say she’s sad and angry and confused all at the same time.
I sit there for a few more minutes, watching her, this stranger, unravel. I can’t pretend to be busy anymore – I’m only a witness to a private moment on a cloudy day, and that doesn’t seem fair.
Sitting up, I shift the car into reverse and pull out of my parking space. Into drive now, I turn to the right, and the girl and I make eye-contact; it feels like it lasts forever. Her heart is rattling, and her fists are clenched, swollen, and sweaty. The fire in her eyes is dim - the rain has dampened it, and she’s steaming –brewing– all by herself in that car, separate from the darkness and cold outside. She’s a vortex, and for a second I’m sucked in.
But it ends, and I drive away.
Even now, years later, I hope that she’s okay. I hope that on stormy days she’s strong and that her fire withstands, grows even. I hope she knows that she’s not alone, and that she wasn’t that day in the rain.