Rain pours out like someone took a beef hook to the sky; slaps against the pavement and flows into a street gutter. Steam pours out from the grills, back into the air, and the whole thing starts over again. Cars slowly roll down the street, just enough to splash my shoes, and run the STOP sign partially blocked by a low hanging branch. Sure they’ll cut it down soon; there’ve been some accidents lately. A street light hangs over me and the bus stop. I watch beads race each other down the glass window, leave zigzag streaks of progress for others to follow. Light reflects off the fire engine red bench and illuminates the water, giving beads more life as they make their way towards the finish line. In the glass’s reflection I can see myself; soaked and staring past the water and rain and far out into the pitch black field just on the other side of the glass.
I never see anybody using it. When I was little, we used to go out there and play Wiffle Ball, or Kill the Man with the Ball. I remember when the guy called me to his car, “You! You, with the Devil’s jersey! Come here” wife in the back seat. In school we were taught people might try to take us trying to sell us cookies, or asking for directions, or things like that. When he tried pulling that line on me about Girl Scouts, I knew what was going on but I was still stuck. Couldn’t move. Inches from the door. His wife could have grabbed me, I could be dead right now. I was confused when he instead started screaming at me,
“You ever come near my wife or daughter again and I’ll fucking kill you!”
and took off down the road; ran the STOP sign. The branch wasn’t so low back then. Didn’t realize what happened until I turned around, blurry from tears welling in my eyes, and saw a parent watching everything happen. Called the police and they took what little information I could remember down but they never caught the guy. Pennsylvania license plates. It’s the only thing I can remember except his voice.
Never stopped us from playing there though. Couple years later a girl got abducted and that was that. Didn’t know her, she was a couple years younger than me. A Xeroxed picture of her smile was all over phone lines, every school enhanced security. Police patrolled the field and when we got too rough with each other they told us to leave. They never found that little girl. We never had a moment of silence for her. Nobody really talked about it; my parents never mentioned the attempt on me afterwards, either.
The rain gains momentum then slows a few times. The heavy rain washes away all of the glass trails and beads start fresh down the pane when it tapers off a bit. Splashes lick the sky from puddles in the field; looks like they’re bubbling. Through the glass I can just make out the cement bottom to a bench that’s been here since I was young. Used to be home base when we played tag. I brought my first girlfriend there in 6th grade; it’s where I got my first kiss. One night in high school I got too drunk to go home and slept on it. Woke up prodded by a police baton who knew me from school. I wasn’t trouble, just quiet. Saw the puddle of vomit and told me not to drink again,
“Next time I find you here you’re going to jail. Got it? Now go home, get outta here.”
Nobody’s ever here anymore. Just rain. Two beads racing down the glass absorb each other and continue down the glass as one, down below the red bench and I can’t see them anymore. Brake screeches turn me around to see a bus stopped in front of me, doors open, and light from the inside turns the wet sidewalk yellow. 2 people file out.
“161 to Port Authority.”
“Just waitin’ out the rain.”
He pulls a lever and the doors close; rolls off slow, stops at the sign, and makes a right. Umbrellas from the two riders appear and they make their way in opposite directions. Steam stopped coming from the gutter. I sit down on the bench and watch the street for a bit, lean back against the glass. I turn around to look at the streaks but a hard fall washed them away again. Looks like the rain is slowing down some. Nobody tells me to leave them alone. Nobody tells me to go home. I just know when it’s time to. Take my bag, hold it under my shirt, leave the bus stop, the street light, and jog down the street towards the STOP sign. I stop, look both ways, and cross. Soaked by the time I get home.