The Color of Rain
    Rachel Thomas
Her boyfriend Sim is all about looking. Sideways, upways, shifty occasionally but primarily straight on and unabashed. The women notice his looking in that woman way; the primate sense of potential danger-slash-mating. Laurie knows that feeling, the thinness of it and the way desire slinks both unwanted and potent under the gaze of a stranger.

Since they both work at Java Express, she is a witness to Sim's looking. Watching a watcher, Laurie has in effect become him to a lesser degree. Over lattés and the ethereal foam of cappuccino, she begins to notice hips, waterfalls of pale hair, and the inevitable lure of breasts. Laurie wonders if Sim's images run along the lines of melons, grapefruits, water balloons; if his mind creates these cliché conceptions or rather a collection of remote fantasies. Either way, she understands Sim's looking as a language she cannot fully interpret.

It is the willowy women he tends to look at most, the ones whose weaknesses are their strengths. Trembly women, a weeping sits in their pupils and refuses to leave. She knows that Sim feels that irreparable urge to draw it out, eradicate it in a manner similar to his sponging grinds from the counter. Cleaning up the loss of the world, something Laurie cannot necessarily hold against him because for all intents and purposes Sim is a good man. For all intents and purposes, she cannot claim looking as a crime, as a reason even for his unwillingness to marry her. But that's what she wants, for Sim to look in her direction and stop there.

She begins to notice the women on the street, limbs draping like fall leaves, and she fears for them. Fears that the wind will break their wholeness, take away what they seem to hold in delicate balance. She fears and begins, on a level that is barely apparent to her, to desire them.

When one in particular, a creature of impossibly long legs, hair the color of carnelians, begins to frequent the shop, Laurie sees Sim expand. For with this one, who Laurie has assigned the name Rain, the debility appears so bold on her skin. Whatever grief Rain is attempting to sit through, it runs through the shop unheeded. Nothing stands in its way toward Sim, a path Laurie sees as an actual river, the silver stones of its bed winking doubts in her direction. The suspicions of her relationship fill the air like tangible caffeine, making Laurie's skin itch, her fingers needy for attention from Sim.

She tries to distract him when Rain enters the shop, rushes the counter before he can. Laurie finds her hairline sweating in anticipation of Rain's arrival and begins to believe Rain must feel the same current. Danger, breakage, the passing of money where their hands inevitably touch.

Rain's hands, in their briefest moments, feel nothing but hard. It is a fact she wants to share with Sim, say, ha you're wrong about her, but she is not certain. Not sure if his desire for Rain can be categorized by textures.

When she watches Rain, the comma her back creates bent over her skim latté, Laurie herself swims in a liquid unnameable. She turns to a consistency Sim might understand better if she could let him feel it.

On Sim's day off, Laurie finds herself, unexpectedly, standing by Rain's table.

"Is everything alright?"

Rain looks up at her, her eyes a thick silver, not as surprised as she perhaps should be.

"The coffee is fine."

"That's not what I meant. I mean that if there's anything you want to talk about. Whatever is bothering you. You can."

Laurie is ashamed as the words emerge, tasting this presumption as a disease. This, she understands suddenly, could be the reason Sim cannot hold himself permanently to her. Her skin so thick he is frightened by the effort it would take to get past it. Laurie fumbles, feels for one satisfying sick moment, what it might be like to be someone like Rain.

"I'm sorry. It's really none of my business . . . I don't know what it was."

She turns to head behind the counter, her cheeks ripe with uncertainty.

"What did you see?"

Rain's voice stops her. It is not expected, this question unanswerable. What would she say . . . I see a flood, a drowning, a tree whose roots are folded against the world? A woman, withheld, who stands between me and my future?

The question that Laurie wants to ask, but cannot, is which woman to hold responsible.

When Laurie remains silent, Rain takes her hand away from her cup. It is an exposing that Laurie feels in her navel.

"I lost someone I didn't even know yet." Rain cradles her hands below her belt and Laurie sees what is meant.

Laurie is looking, looking, Sim nowhere in her sight, and sees. In the detachment of the moment, the slip of Rain's life unborn, she cannot picture Sim's face. It is lost in the swirl of grinders and bitter odors of their existence together. In the temporary panic of his loss, the air opens up in front of her, the world expanding to include her in its endless states.

There, there is a painting new to her in its vibrancy, the smell of milk aching beneath her nose, and the outdoor light crowning Rain's head to display that her hair is not, in fact, the color of carnelians.

Rachel Thomas-Medwid's fiction has appeared in A&U Magazine and Literal Latté. Some of her literary honors include a top ten award in the annual John Steinbeck competition, honorable mention in Writer's Digest competition, and second place in the Literal Latté awards.


In Posse: Potentially, might be ...