Rainy Days

December 31, 2008
By Alex Wittman, St. Joseph, MI

Everything in life comes full circle. For the most part, things begin exactly how they’ll end. And that’s why that rainy, tear-filled afternoon in my driveway was perfect.
I lured you there under false pretenses. In my defense though, it was done subconsciously. I had every intention of simply giving you your clothes back like I’d told you over the phone. I didn’t want to fight. I didn’t want to talk. I didn’t even want to see you, but I had to get rid of it.
I was sick of seeing that sweatshirt hanging in my closet. The beige, zip-up hoodie mocked me from the far corner of my bedroom—a constant reminder of what once was but is no longer. Why I even had that stupid thing in the first place I don’t know. Over-sized and baggy on your lanky, 6’5’’ frame, the sweatshirt swallowed me up as though I was The Bible’s Jonah. Completely impractical for daily wear by someone my size. Oh, but I remember now why I had it; why you’d given it to me the summer before last.
Unzipping it from yourself, you loosely wrapped the sweatshirt around my shivering form—the night air was chilly. Thinking back, I must have looked ridiculous—the material draped over me like a window curtain—but then I didn’t care. The soft cotton was a comfort on my skin; your body heat conveniently transferred to my tank-top exposed shoulders.
You were set to leave for some big, basketball tournament in Fort Wayne the next day, and we were saying our goodbyes. As you kissed me on my forehead, someone flicked on the front porch lights. Enveloping me in your long arms, you teased, “Promise you won’t forget about me while I’m gone. And don’t fall in love with any other boys.” As though I ever would, or even could for that matter.
The sweatshirt was so I’d “remember” you; so some part of you could be with me even if you weren’t. Experts say memory and scent are closely linked; your Calvin Klein cologne was woven into the material, and even now—months later—it still lingers.
Your hoodie kept me company the whole weekend you were away and every night after that—well until April. That entire time you never asked for it back. And although I’d never told you what had become of it, I think you knew.
That stupid sweatshirt was the last thing to go. Everything else had been boxed up and tucked away high on a shelf: silly notes you’d written me in your neat—almost girly—block script, my white rose corsage from Prom, all the sports articles cut-out from The Herald-Palladium, the countless pictures of us. Out of sight, out of mind, right? All that was left was that hoodie—once a comfort but now a torture. The last reminder of your once so significant existence. But when that was gone, you’d be too, and I’d finally be able to get on with things.
“Just burn it. That idiot probably doesn’t even remember you have it. We’ll light it on fire. That’d be fun, wouldn’t it?” Only a true friend suggests pyro-antics, and Katie is as true as anyone I’ve ever known. She tried so hard to help me get over it—get over you. She’d fix me up with her boyfriend’s friends, even though they were a poor match at best. She’d let me cry on her shoulder. And she was constantly scheming up ways to get back at you. She wanted me to let go as much as I did—probably more.
But I couldn’t “just burn it”—although it was an intriguing thought—I needed to give the sweatshirt back in person. I needed to be face-to-face one last time. I needed to physically see you in order to get the closure I so desperately sought.
I started watching for you at 5:00pm, even though basketball conditioning didn’t get out until 5:30pm. Standing by the front door, I was barely able to grasp the thought that this was going to be the last time I waited for you. Looking for something to distract me, I folded and re-folded the sweatshirt five separate times before deciding to go with the “I-just-picked-this-off-the-floor” look. Folding is caring, and I didn’t want you to think I still did.
A few minutes before 6:00pm, your car came into view. Almost 15 minutes after you said you’d be there—being late hadn’t changed. Glancing into a mirror on my way out to the garage, the sight of my reflection made me a little surer of myself. At least my hair looked good.
Stepping from the security of my house into the unknown of that overcast, October day, I was suddenly flooded with things I wanted to say. Like how much I hated you. Like how you’d become everything you said you’d never be. Like how I couldn’t understand how you could go through every day as though nothing had happened between us. But words wouldn’t come. Seeing you standing there in my driveway—your own bag of things to return in hand—had rendered me completely and utterly speechless. Lost like a little kid in a grocery store, but no apron-clad employee was coming to my rescue.
I thought back to all those months ago—damn, it’d been over a year—in the Lakeshore High School parking lot while we waited for your sister’s volleyball practice to be over.
“I have a definite crush on you, Alex,” You said in that geeky voice that came to be the best sound in the world. “Just being friends isn’t going to be enough.”
I hadn’t known what to say back to you. You’d caught me by surprise, and I needed a second to gather my thoughts. Contemplating the situation, I watched while big, fat drops splashed against the passenger window. It was raining that night when it all began. And it was raining that day in my driveway when it finally ended.

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