Going Out for a Smoke in Uncertain Times

One of my most vivid young adult memories is with my high school girlfriend. We were 17, on the verge of graduating, each of our colleges already determined.

My mom was home and we wanted to get away but it was raining outside. With some arm-tugging, my girlfriend convinced me we could find a dry spot to have a cigarette.

So out we went, into the April rain, getting completely soaked by the time the storm door bounced shut. In reaching the curb, we were so immediately wet that the falling rain didn’t matter anymore.

We jumped in puddles, we looked straight up at the droplets coming down and let them fall on our cheeks and into our mouths. We stood under overflowing gutters and let the water pound our heads like hammers, our shirts heavy, stretching to our knees and sticking to our ribs.

We walked a mile. We were more interested in being alive than hooking up.

Without talking about it, we ended up at my old elementary school. With its giant covered walkway out front, it was the perfect place for a smoke.

But our cigarettes were soggy.

We huddled together in a dry spot, not cold, but trembling. We kissed a little but that wasn’t the best part.

The rain hitting the pavement, a million little white splashes exploding and disappearing, the drum roll on the roof, our synchronized breaths, and knowing, without a shadow of a doubt, that no one was going to walk by. That’s what made it magical.

We sat in the last chapter of our own story, a silent contract between us, a sad joy in our stomachs, our thoughts already traveling in very different directions, down different highways to different exits, different orientations, different roommates, different cafeterias…

Both of us exactly the same in that moment, unsure of everything, crushed by the complexity of fear and love, hating the real world, hands on each other in cold clench, as if squeezing hard enough would keep it raining, would fill the roads, flood the highways, erase the walk home.

The past, present, and future all happening at the same time, while the gutters filled and the puddles rose.