ART BY STELLA OMENETTO
I was explaining the difference between two things to Ella when the rain started and we had to duck into a deli on the corner. I can’t remember what they were, but it’s not important anymore. I lost my train of thought, and instead she started talking about summer storms.
When she was 17, she said, brushing her hands against the Snickers and Milky Ways, her prom date was walking on the dirt path beside the highway, towards her house. It was the hottest day of the year. He told her later that he couldn’t stop thinking about his sweat that whole walk over, the way he could feel it coating his entire body. As he went on, he started to feel the hair unsticking from the nape of his neck, and then he heard the wind. He took his eyes off the cars and looked up at the clouds. Twenty minutes later he was soaking wet and, holding a damp corsage out to her, he said:
“Thank god it rained, I was so sweaty.”
Ten years of friendship, and I’d never known who she’d gone to prom with.
Then she was saying that when she was eight or nine, she woke up one morning to her parents fighting behind their bedroom door. She couldn’t quite catch the words, she said, as she looked through the ice cream in the deli freezer, except—
“Wow.” She curled her fingers around the Magnum bar.
“No, I kept hearing him say ‘wow,’ it was all I could hear.”
After a while, he left the house so silently that she continued listening behind the door an hour after he was gone. She went to a birthday party in the park in the afternoon. When she arrived she sat away from her friends, on a picnic table, and looked out onto the grass. She saw a man near the baseball fields watching a Little League game. It was her dad, she could tell, even at a distance. Something about his posture gave it away, the way he ran his fingers through the front of his hair.
I noted that this was something she did too.
The sky began to darken, and the birthday party packed up to move indoors. When the rain began, she slipped away from the kids and parents and moved towards the man. The nearer she got, the less he really resembled her dad—this person was too short, had too much hair. But still, she was sure. She only stopped when he stood up to leave, walking away with his back turned, hood pulled over his head.
She didn’t know why these two memories felt like just one, clenched together in a rain cloud, holding its storm for so long just to be released all at once. Maybe it was only the weather, she said.
I would have done anything for her then, but I just bought her the ice cream and we walked out into the sun again.