I looked down at the freshly dug up soil beneath my feet, flowers in hand. The gravestone was new, and carved onto it was, In loving memory of Christopher Radford; 1994-2017. I grimaced. He had only been twenty-three. I wondered what he was like; what his hobbies were, what he did for a living, what his favorite food was. I wish I had gotten to know him better, and maybe we could have even become friends. Then again, given what happened during our one and only encounter, it would probably be best if I had never met him at all...
It had been pouring that night, sheets of rain falling like curtains from the sky and drenching anyone stupid enough to be outside without an umbrella. I, of course, was one of those people. I had lost track of time at the cozy café on the corner of the block, but realized that I had to leave when the announcement, “Five minutes until closing time” was made from a soft voice on the speakers. I had to get home somehow, so I wrapped my soaked jacket tighter to my body in an attempt to save what little body heat I had left and trudged my way, stringy hair and all, towards the skyscraper that held my apartment.
Despite the heavy downpour, or maybe because of it, the streets were crowded with vehicles. Needing to cross a street myself, I waited for the crosswalk to signal for pedestrian crossing before stepping onto the wet pavement, avoiding the ever-growing puddles along the way.
On the other side of the street, a stranger, whose name I would later learn was Christopher, was crossing as well. He looked dry enough, shielded by one of those large, transparent umbrellas. When the stranger passed by, he must have noticed my jealous staring because he switched directions so that I was under the umbrella too.
I noticed the lack of pounding rain on my head and shoulders immediately. “Thank you, but I’m f-fine, really,” The effect was ruined by the chattering of my teeth. I could feel a cold coming on. “Please, j-just head home, or wherever you’re g-going.”
The stranger smiled gently before responding in a soothing voice, but I was distracted by a small, rectangular object in the middle of the street that caught my eye. It was hard to see, because the headlights from the cars were illuminating each heavy raindrop in blinding white, but it looked like—
“—Your wallet,” I interrupted the guy, pointing behind us to where the stranger’s wallet must have fallen when he switched directions to shelter me with his umbrella.
The stranger patted his pockets quickly with one hand, holding the umbrella with the other. He gasped and backtracked for his wallet. Once again, I was drenched within seconds, but I was too focused on the stranger (not stranger, he had a name—Christopher), suddenly hit with a premonition that something horrible was about to happen. Not knowing what else to do with this sudden feeling to give a warning, I called out to him. He paused and looked at me, momentarily distracted.
It was a fatal mistake.
The light changed to green, and impatient drivers sped blindly through the sheets of rain—with both of us still in the street. The headlights got brighter and brighter, and I shut my eyes, bracing for the worst. I heard the scratchy sound of tires screeching and the disturbing crunch of metal on metal, and then just the splattering of rain against pavement. In the distance, someone shouted out directions for an ambulance and first aid. Something bumped gently against my leg and I opened my eyes with a start. A large, transparent umbrella stared back at me, something red sliding off the smooth plastic and mixing with the unforgiving rain below.
The trail of red on the pavement didn’t wash away with the rain; instead it seemed increase continuously. The metallic smell of iron stung my nose, and my eyes widened as I looked a little further ahead of me—
—to find Christopher sprawled out on the pavement, limbs bent at unnatural angles. His eyes were blank and unseeing. I took a slow step towards him, and then another, not even noticing the squish of my soaked socks in my shoes. I could tell right away that he was the main source of the thick, red substance on the street. A bit more came from inside the cars that had involuntarily taken part in the accident. Studying the positions of the cars, I realized that the car that I had been in front of had swerved sharply to avoid hitting me, and ended up hitting Christopher and the other car instead.
The realization had me rooted to the spot, and I couldn’t stop thinking -I caused this, this is my fault, what have I done- even as I vaguely heard someone attempting to speak with me and shaking my shoulders before reporting something about me being in shock…
I blinked and shook my head, trying to clear the dark flashback from my mind. The brief memories I had of Christopher were still clearly engraved in my mind. He was someone that I had only spent a couple minutes with, but from those minutes, I already knew that he was someone who was too kind, who was killed for helping out a stranger on a rainy day. He didn’t deserve this. It was too cruel, too unjust a death for someone like him. Gently laying the flowers near his gravestone, I briefly dipped my head in prayer before stepping out of the cemetery. As I got into my car, I glanced to my right at the large, transparent umbrella at the foot of the passenger seat. At least one thing that I could do to respect Christopher was to help out the strangers that needed it.
It’s the least I could do.