-> Writing -> Memorial Day

Memorial Day, 1993

My wife, who at the time wasn't even my fiancé yet, has visited me in Charlottesville for the weekend, reversing the usual trend of me spending the weekend with her in Blacksburg. It is a beautiful spring day, the kind of day where you can feel summer trying to take over, but so far spring is still winning the battle. We decide to go over to Alderman library; I forget why, perhaps she had some schoolwork to do or perhaps we just needed something to read. I lived in a house on Fontaine Street, about a mile and a half from Alderman, and considering the weather, we decide to walk there.

Alderman library is the weirdest place. It was once three floors, but at some point they ran out of room for books and someone had the bright idea that the floors were so tall you could split them and put a new floor between each of the old ones. So the elevator is marked in one-half increments: floor 1, floor 1.5, floor 2, etc. The ceilings of these new half-floors are only about six and a half feet tall, just inches taller than the stacks--that's shelves full of books in libraryspeak--and it's positively the most claustrophobic place I've ever been. My head nearly hits the ceiling, and because the stacks are so close to the ceiling the lighting is really bad, and in general it seems like the sort of place where a slasher movie might be filmed. You can easily imagine a guy in a hockey mask stalking some pretty young girl through those tight little corridors of books.

Anyway, we walk and talk and enjoy that sort of nothing-time that is so wonderful when you're with someone you love. The weather, we've decided, is pretty much perfect, or perhaps a degree or two warmer than perfect. We arrive at Alderman, and a sign on the door says it's closed for Memorial Day. Duh. Like dopes, we try the door anyway, which is one of those stupid things that seems universal among humanity, like pushing the elevator button when it's already lit. Almost as if we tripped some sort of booby-trap by hauling on the door, the sky is immediately overtaken with black, scary-looking clouds. Uh-oh. We start to walk back home--briskly, as the cloud cover still affords the illusion that we might be able to outpace it.

While the distance we've covered would still be measured in feet, big fat raindrops begin to fall. We break into a run, and within seconds it is pouring, and seconds after that we are so wet that there is no point in running any more, or looking for cover; we are as wet as it is possible to get. We stop running and just laugh hysterically.

We walk the remaining mile or so back to my house, having already reached that point where the continuing downpour can't possibly make us any wetter than we already are. It is a comfortable rain: cool enough to be refreshing, but not so cold as to chill us. We just walk and talk, our drenched state rendering us completely immune to the rain. It feels good, and we wonder why people are always in such a hurry to get out of the rain. As if it's such a tragedy to get wet.

It seems like the story should end with us, dried off and in bathrobes, sipping hot chocolate or something. But honestly, I can't remember what happens next. But I know that when the subject of love comes up, I often think about this day, and how a simple experience like this, which if experienced alone would be forgettable at best and irritating at worst, can turn into something magical when you share it with someone you love.