Two Strangers in Passing

It was a fall day, absolutely dull, save for the sharp hues of the leaves and a slight biting wind. A lone figure trembled as he slid down the sidewalk, his hands shoved deep within the kangaroo pouch of his too-thin jacket. Leaves crunched helplessly under his meticulously polished boots as he moved slowly but surely towards some unseen destination. He turned his head to one side and coughed naught but steam.Another stupid boring day, he thought. Pointless and without features worth remembering, almost as if he had lived this day a thousand times before. He knew exactly where he came from, and he knew exactly where he was headed. This street was as familiar to him as the disaffected stares of his peers. Same old stupid weather, too, right down to the freezing ache that never goes away no matter how much hot chocolate you fill yourself with.

He had just finished school for the day. Same old stupid school. The same monotonous stream of consciousness. How he wished, how he hoped that something would happen to him. He didn't much care what, as long as it was different.

He had the day off from work. This pleased him to no end, as he could now go home and give the precious hours of his life to a multitude of novel pursuits. He could watch the television. He could listen to the CDs that, in his opinion, were thousands of times greater than the voices of the people around him. He could even go see his friends. Same old stupid friends.

As he crested the hill, the chill in the air somehow sharpened. The wind didn't get stronger, nor did the temperature change, but there was a very tangible feeling that something was different, and he felt a little colder and vulnerable than before. He was driven even farther into his prized jacket, the one with the logo of the team that he was proud of, even though they almost always lost. Hands retracted into sleeves. He pulled the collar up so high that he almost disappeared. He wanted to disappear. He wanted to be cold dust in the freezing wind.

While he skittered down the hill, his choice in footwear failing him somewhat, he sighted another sorry creature entering into this valley of suburbia. She too wore her jacket as a shell. He tried not to look at her. It was painful. As they passed, each on the opposite side of the road, it started.

Where the sky was once a sterile frozen blue, clouds poured in. From the North, East, West, and South they came. Some even seemed to have come down from great heights. It might even be possible to contend that clouds came from below and from within as well, but it all occurred too quickly for careful observation. Same old stupid life? Now here's something!

Then came the hail.
Then came the wind.

All of a sudden, jackets weren't nearly enough. They were paper-thin now. Every gust of wind and every hailstone hit them as if they were wearing nothing at all. Hurting them as if they were as naked physically as they were emotionally. He looked up. His full-force hurricane was merely the size of a few city blocks. He felt so cold, and so alone, and so hurt by the raging forces of nature. Unthinkingly, unconsciously, he reached out. He slowly turned about, fighting the gale all the way.

And there she was. Looking right into his eyes. She had twisted herself against the current in the same way he did. It was unclear just how long she had been standing like that, but he could tell that she had been there longer than he had. His emotional armor had taken longer to be destroyed by the burning rain, but it was useless just the same. They came back to reality with a start, in the imperfect way that perfect things happen.

In one surprisingly powerful motion, they ran across the street and embraced. It was perhaps the single most wonderful moment in their lives up to that point. They stood there in the middle of the empty street, two very small creatures against the cruel wind. It surrounded them, but it did not permeate them. There was no storm between their arms, nor was there a storm inside of them. So they stood there and warmed each other, for they had both been cold for far too long. The rain and hail and wind still hurt, but it didn't matter. They were an unwavering, singular being then, undaunted by the chaos around them.

In each other, they had found refuge from the storm.