We leave Dan and Stephanie in 60 Main to make the most of being in love in the spring. The night calls too strongly and I am eager to fashion memories with Melanie that will last through the long summer. I need a storehouse of stories and tokens I can look to when she is a continent away, speaking a language that sounds of alien poetry even when she burbles it over the phone to her mother.
I guide Melanie to the stone houses on Huguenot Street in New Paltz. This place is a template for memories and I trace them out as we walk. I tell her of parties at the house on Water Street, of coming here when I broke up with Emily years ago, of the rubber tire dragon in the communal farm by the sewage treatment plant, of these buildings being haunted by a man with an axe and a dog.
"Wait, does the man with the axe have the dog?"
"I mean, is it a man with an axe and dog, or is the dog a wholly independent ghost?" she asks, though she doesn't actually believe in things like ghosts to the best of my knowledge. She just wants to make sure she has the story straight. I tell her I don't know, but that I assumed the dog and man were somehow related. It makes me feel better to think that this ghost doesn't have to roam eternity alone. I'd rather have a dog than just an axe.
Melanie and I end up sitting in rocking chairs in front of a church that is three hundred years old, a mere drop in the bucket in terms of history but ancient to me. We likewise discuss our histories, of exes and our lives to this point, of the events that slowly led to our being together in this night. It is too short a night and too perfect a moment for thoroughness. We will have a long while to get all of this right.
We hear the thunder from far off, but continue to sit, as though not even rain can touch what we have here. Perhaps we will touch one another's hands in just the right way to cause the gods to be merciful and spare us. But, no, we head back and feel the start of the drizzle on our heads. We quicken our pace only slightly, enough to put tension in our clasped hands, and revel in the petrichor and streetlight shadows.
The rain turns to a downpour when we get to the car. We sit for a moment, dripping on the cloth seats.
"I say we get ice cream," Melanie decides.
"In the downpour?"
"In the downpour."
"I love you so freaking much."
I drive up the street, the rain battering my car, to the ice cream stand. I park as closely as I can. "Ready?" I ask. "Break!"
We run to the door, getting drenched anyway, but it does not give. The girls within mouth apologies for being closed, but nothing we do will change it. We dash back, empty handed and wet.
As I am filling my gas tank for the trip home, Melanie sticks her hand out of the window so she can catch the raindrops in her palm. We are both dripping, but still she reaches for the storm overhead, so she can feel the fresh rain on her lips from the dryness of the car. She has forgotten where she is, neglected that I may be watching. I am nearly embarrassed to have caught her in this moment of sacredness but I am so much more in love with her for it.
I tell her all of this and she is the one who acts embarrassed, needlessly. She is a fervent atheist, but I want her to feel the sacred. I excuse that I am likely projecting my own feelings upon her, that she likely just wanted to drink some rain, but neither one of us seems to believe her when she says this is probably true.
This act I have witnessed is one I will hold onto while she is in France from the middle of May to August. She is so new to me, but I can't cling to her leaving and remain happy. My choices are to ruin what time we have left with worrying and sadness or enjoy every second with her to the fullest. So I shall fall deeper in love and pretend it can never end.
Soon in Xenology: Napping. Anonymous.