As the rain poured down and the man in the suit stood waiting for his driver, there was a woman in a plaid shirt a few feet away from him hailing a cab. She was soaked to the bone and had no umbrella, but she wore a glorious smile. It was the smile of knowing, of having something you wish to tell everyone but no one would understand, so you just smile. Cab after cab flew by her and each time she merely looked up and stretched out her arms, feeling the rain run down her body, becoming the rain, and smiling ever wider as if the downpour were a respite from cab-hailing. The man was perplexed by her, not perturbed, but confused. There’s something admirable about having patience when a cab won’t give you the time of day, but that’s not what she had. What she had was more akin to bliss.
The black town car rounded the block, skirting through the busy traffic to pick up the man in the suit. He sank into the backseat of the executive sedan, his damp clothes turning the leather a darker shade of grey, and after a moment, the driver looked at him from the rear view mirror.
“Where to, sir?”
“5th and Broad,” the man replied.
“Yes sir, it’ll just be a minute, waiting for a good time to merge.”
The man was, indeed, heading to 5th and Broad, but he felt like he was going nowhere. His firm was losing money, their stocks falling like the raindrops on the car window. Slowly but surely, workers were being laid off and, for those that remained, the work was piling up. The amount of work wasn’t what worried him, though; it was the fact that as the lower rungs of the totem pole were getting let go, he wondered how long he’d stay on it.
He surveyed his wet clothes (the umbrella had helped, but only just); he wore black, wing-tipped shoes that were methodically double-knotted and pleated black slacks fastened by a belt that seemed to have shrunken slightly in recent days. The bright red tie around his neck had been loosened and the collar of his shirt unbuttoned as soon as he left the building. It was a good suit, and he was sitting in a nice car: the wood inlay in the door panels, the hand stitched leather of the seats, it was all high quality and not cheap. He had no issue with money, his job paid him well enough; his concern was how long it would continue to do so.
Finally, the traffic began to clear and make way for the driver and his laconic passenger to get going. At that moment, the man in the suit was looking out the window and noticed that the woman in plaid had never been successful in getting a cabbie’s attention (though she had been very successful at getting drenched).
“Don’t go yet,” the man told the rear view mirror.
The man in the suit rejoined the sidewalk, umbrella in hand, and called to the woman,
“Need a lift?”
The woman in plaid was not accustomed to riding with strangers, but, taking note that there was a driver who would witness any attempt at foul play and the sorry state of her waterlogged clothes, she decided to accept.
“Where are you heading?” the man asked, closing the door behind him.
“4th and Lexington,” the woman replied, still dripping and still glowing like she was on that gloomy sidewalk.
The man looked at the eyes in the rear view mirror to confirm that he had heard her. The eyes nodded in response.
The first few minutes of the ride were quiet and filled by the woman looking thoughtfully out the window, still wearing that smile, and the man stealing glances at her, still baffled as he was before. Finally, he couldn’t stand the silence,“You seem to be in a very good mood.”
She shrugged sheepishly, still smiling, and returned to the window.
“Weren’t you concerned you’d never get a cab?”
“No reason to be, you offered me a ride.”
“You weren’t worried you’d catch a cold out there in the rain?” he asked after a moment.
“Not in particular.”
“…Do you worry about anything?”
“Not if I can help it,” she said, still smiling as they pulled over at 4th and Lexington, “you should try it some time. Thanks for the ride.”
She closed the door and sauntered through the downpour into her apartment building.
“On to 5th and Broad then?” the driver asked.
“Hm? Oh, yes.”
He’d been staring blankly out the window, watching the raindrops fall.
In a flash, they arrived at 5th and Broad. One last time, the man in the suit rejoined the sidewalk and, under the canopy of his umbrella walked toward his own building. Just before opening the door, however, he stepped back for a moment and looked at his umbrella…he hesitated briefly before deciding his fate; he reached up and clicked the umbrella shut, leaving him standing in the downpour. The man in the suit stretched his arms to the sky, still unsure as he was doing so, and let the rain pour down, let himself become the rain.
The rain began to slow as the man went inside. The town car pulled away and one street over, the woman in plaid was still smiling. And unbeknownst to any of them, the man began to smile as well, if only a little.