THE FLOOD

Let me preface this by saying that at the time, I had been completely useless. Normally, I kept my schedule so full I barely had time to shower; this was no longer the predicament. I hadn't been able to find the culprit of my inexplicable futility, all I knew was that instead of writing the sports column or bending awkwardly in yoga, I would just stare at walls.

Desperate for social activity, I walked into this coffee shop so I could sit among other, equally socially deprived individuals. It had been years since I let myself indulge in the addictive stuff; I gave it up along with many other bad habits when I realized they were no longer endearing, merely frustrating. I decided to jump in head first and order the bottomless mug of brewed coffee. I remember how awkward it felt to hold that cup again. My shock must have been a bit more apparent than I'd thought, because the college-aged barista behind the counter called me "ma'am" twice before asking if I was okay. Realizing how utterly idiotic I must have seemed at that moment, I laughed at myself and made cozy by the plush chartreuse easy chair by the picture window.

I sipped and immediately all those bad habits returned.

The music in that place was horrible, some older Christian rock that I'd hated when I was in college and hated more now that I wasn't in college. One of the baristas left his station and began cleaning tables. He must have been behind me, lurking, but I was completely oblivious at that point, lost in the memories of everything that cup of coffee brought back.

"Ah! Parles tu le français?" Jesus, I hated social food service employees. My bag must have tipped ever-so-slightly, revealing my collection of French literature I'd brought in case I felt the need to appear preoccupied.

"Euh, oui." I began sipping again, hoping he'd walk away. I had no such luck. Clearly, he did not want to return to work, and began rambling in the language.

At that moment, the clouds which had been darkening all day, finally burst and poured rain onto the hot cobblestone streets. A few pedestrians were caught, waving their arms frantically as if it might protect from the rain while they raced to their cars. Smiling, I looked away and instinctively nodded to the barista who was commenting on the sudden deluge.

I looked out the picture window again, fondling the lip of my mug. Small puffs of steam were rolling off the cooling road beneath the rain, making the entire event looking somewhat post-cataclysmic. By now, most of the people had found sanctuary in their cars, after having shaken their shoes to remove any excess water before closing the car door. What caught my attention, though, was the one figure across the street who had managed to remain completely still in the downpour. He had no umbrella, no protective covering, just stood perfectly still. He was drenched, like the others. His hair was matted down and stuck to his forehead and face, his hands were hidden within his pants pockets. And he just stood.

I squinted, trying to see the face of this imbecile on the other side of the street. At first he only appeared somewhat familiar, a lingering, nameless face. As I watched more closely, I realized that this was no nameless character at all.

Upon recognition, I could feel my face blush, my skin become hot, my pulse beat wildly in my temples. God, after eight years of nonexistence there he stood just as dauntingly as before. And it all returned suddenly, what I'd spent eight years suppress and erasing from memory. In an instant, it all returned.