It was a warm summer night that the rain was tempering on our skin. Even Cody showed a slick of sweat on her face under her umbrella. And I’ve never seen her really sweat. I walked beside her, my left shoulder flying unprotected by the umbrella and sharing the city’s feeling of cold rain on a warm background.
But the shock of that heat-to-cold on my shoulder was nothing compared to the one I felt next. The usual warmth I felt with Cody turned to a chill that ran through my body when she said, “Adam, I think it’s time we went our separate ways.”
Now, I had to give her credit for having the guts to tell me that to my face instead of texting goodbye like Marina and Barbara did. But that was Cody, always bravely expressing herself, yet worried about others’ feelings.
“What? Wait, you called me to meet you down here in this rainstorm to tell me you’re breaking up with me? Why? Please, tell me, Cody. Have I hurt you? Lied to you? Sucked as a lover?”
“We’ve had sex three times.”
She stared at me with her reporter’s “Really?” look.
“No, it’s none of those things,” Cody said and pulled my arm fully beneath the shelter her umbrella.
“Maybe we can get out of the rain to talk about this…this thing that I thought bound us together in the way mutual hugs might. Or even transplants, like me giving a kidney to you,” I babbled.
“That’s ridiculous. I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Well, it’s that, you know, that thing. I don’t know if I can describe it in any way someone else would understand it. I always thought you did organically. But here goes. Some people like that feeling of proximity that comes with being tied together, immobilized yet mobile, freely captive with another. Or feeling their heat, shivering with their cold, sharing the showers like this and the sunshine as if they wear the same skin. They can construe it as ‘being together,’ I guess.”
Cody just blinked, like raindrops hit her eyelashes.
“Tied together…” she said.
“Right, until someday, somehow they cut those cords. I have seen many people walking around still attached to their walking shadow even after he out she has left them, one way or another.”
She pulled out her phone and dialed someone, I didn’t know who. Onward I plunged.
“Other people can subsume, with permission of course, the object of their visceral need after searching so long to find that perfect match. Like you for me and me for you. A match fraught with the minimum amount of rejection, yet, with diligent aftercare, most likely to keep them alive. They can live on together even after their partner in this organic life no longer can.”
“Then it would be useless for one of us to drop dead?” Cody said with the most un-Cody tone I’d ever heard from her.
“Yeah…NO! See the one thing these experiences share is how each member of the couple are irreversibly changed by the experience. Maybe it’s the scars they can display or conceal, maybe even from themselves. Maybe it’s the memories of their partner’s touch, your touch, my touch, both on their skin and within it. Like a heartbeat, they feel even as they lie alone at night.”
I thought I might have touched her with that last bit of extemporaneous poetry.
“That’s right, corner of Fifth and Madison. Um-hmm, I have a red umbrella,” Cody said into her phone. She then turned to me and said, “I’m sorry, Adam, you were saying?”
“Right. Well, I’ll admit, I’m no expert on relationships. I’ve walked through my life carrying a platter full of bite-size pieces of my marrow-rich thirteenth rib, like some faceless butler named, ironically, Adam. And I’m serving at a grand party of the interested and disinterested. Some of the ladies have idly taken one piece of me just to wrap it in a napkin and toss it in the potted palm. Others have taken it with thanks and thought, ‘that’s different,’ and moved on to bacon-wrapped shrimp. Only once, with you Cody, did I have the courage to place myself on your plate, wrapped in wordy ribbons I hoped you might secure to yourself like a pin for some needy charity. You actually took them to heart,”
“Yes, Adam, but I really have to move on. The Los Angeles Times called and offered me a job. I just didn’t know how to tell you. And there was no time to do it. They want me there Thursday,” Cody said, placing her hand on my cheek.
But my cheek felt strangely numb, like I’d been standing in a blizzard instead of a summer rain. I couldn’t feel Cody’s warm skin against mine and it sounded like I might never again.
“Adam, I wanted to prepare you for this, just in case I got the good news. But there wasn’t any time. We’ve had a sweet couple of months, but the Los Angeles freaking Times! Career opportunities like this don’t come along every day. I’m sorry,” she said.
I just glumly looked at her and said, “I understand, Cody. I really do.”
“If you want, we can keep in touch. I really do like you, Adam. Maybe not as deeply as you would hope. But you’re a sweet guy and this party of yours is in a big room and I’m sure what you’re serving will appeal to someone else. I just can’t partake of it now.”
A taxi pulled up to the curb, splashing some cold pieces of a puddle on my leg and I jumped forward to a spot in the proximity of a hug with Cody. She wrapped her arms around my neck and kissed my cheek. This time it felt warm and soft as any kiss could. And then it was over.
Cody walked to her ride, opened the door, shook water off her umbrella, sat in the back seat and clunked the door shut. From the rear window, she gave me one last look, a faint wave and then she was gone.
The tunnel through which I observed this scene suddenly opened and I recognized the neighborhood, the street, the buildings we walked among for those months. The glare and color of the restaurant and store windows, the street and traffic lights, all echoed in smeared images on the puddled street like they were some abstract expression of the chill that now overcame this warm and rainy night.
It was then I realized I hadn’t waved goodbye to Cody. I just stood there with the rain falling on me. It was cold where it ran down my neck. I could feel the drip-drip-drip of it falling from my ears.
“Get ahold of yourself, Adam,” I said to my reflection in the puddle at my feet.
My cheeks felt cold, except for some warm lines that gathered next to my nose and then pooled in the sad pockets at the corners of my mouth. I took a deep breath, exhaled a cloud of woe and stepped through it as I began walking…somewhere.
I reflected on the crazy shit I spouted while I was in that all-at-once stages of grief when Cody dropped her bomb on me.
“Giving her your kidney, dude? C’mon, don’t sell yourself short. She’s not walking away with your kidney,” I said, and then touched my chest. “It was your heart.”
Another Touch-prompted story. Lesson: Never write fiction in front of the television. Your attention to what you’re doing, and worse, what your characters are doing and saying, wavers and makes from some pretty weird stuff showing up.