Greg hated everyone and everything as he was getting soaked by the pouring rain. More accurately, he hated Diane, and everyone and everything which reminded him of her. Right now, this included every person he saw, every place he imagined, and everything that came within his field of view. Greg felt like he had been kicked in the stomach, or perhaps a little lower. He so wanted to cry, and even though the pouring rain would cover his tears, but it would not cover his inevitable red eyes. Anyway he had been raised to believe that men do not cry in public. He wandered from Diane's apartment to his own, lost in thought and on the verge of ... something. He knew he was within a block of his own apartment, but he was already drenched, and at the moment, he didn't care about much of anything, so instead of turning right at the corner, he went straight and crossed the street, not bothering to look if there was any traffic; fortunately, there wasn't.
Sarah was leaving work only a few blocks from her apartment. It had been so beautiful that morning, that she had walked in her business attire the three blocks. She didn't check the weather report, judged the day by its beginning and went to work as if it would be sunshine all day. Despite the suit she was wearing, she realized that she had to walk home in the downpour. She put her briefcase over her head, and ran, as well as anyone without practice can run in heels.
Greg kept his head down figuring he would walk around a few blocks and end up back at his apartment. As he rounded the next corner at the restaurant Francesca, he felt like he was punched in the chest, as he was knocked back a few steps. He looked at what just hit him, and unlike him, she had been knocked onto the ground. Also unlike him, she was laughing. He immediately went over and offered her a hand up. She looked up, still laughing, and extended her hand. Greg took it and helped her up.
"I am so sorry," Greg began.
"My fault. My fault. I wasn't looking where I was running," Sarah explained.
"Neither was I," Greg said while shaking his head. "I was in such a bad mood and hoping to walk it out." The rain continued, but neither could get much wetter.
"I'm sorry that you are in such a bad mood. Can I help?" Sarah offered with such sincerity, ignoring her own situation.
Greg was taken aback by this stranger offering kindness. "I know this sounds like a pick up line, but you are drenched more than I am and you got knocked to the ground. Can I at least buy you dinner?"
Sarah thought for a moment weighing the chances that Greg was a serial killer. That didn't seem likely to her. "Sure, why not? How about we meet here in an hour?"
"I will see you then" Greg smiled as they parted. He walked the rest of the way home in a more direct route, but was thinking all the way home, "Why did I do that? I just saw my still beating heart ripped out of my chest." Greg felt a mixture of anger, excitement, anxiety, frustration, ... He got to his apartment, stripped down, showered under hot water for about 30 minutes, then dried himself off as best he could with the towel, and lay on the bed to finish drying.
Sarah smiled the rest of her way home, feeling happy – and wet. She tried to whistle a little, but the rain running down her face prevented that. When she got inside her apartment, she stripped down to her skin, dried herself off, and sat on the bed, wondering what she should wear this evening. She stood up, walked over to her closet, flipped the light switch, and walked in. While deciding how she should look, she thought, "He was obviously upset about something, so I could go long-time friend – t-shirt, jeans; or like what I wore when we met – business attire, since he asked me out looking like that; or distracting – a low cut dress, showing my cleavage; or...". She paused mid-thought. She was going to go classic new friend. She reached up and pulled the white denim pants off of the hanger, light blue cotton button down shirt with a white, subtle, stitched logo over the breast. As accessories, she chose a light brown belt and some earrings, which had with a little bit of white, light blue, and brown. She went to her dresser and picked out white lace panties and bra – she didn't want it obvious what she was wearing underneath. She walked over to her mirror and held her shirt and pants up to her body to see what it looked like. She smiled and then laid the clothes out on the bed.
Greg rolled into a sitting position on the edge of the bed with his feet on the floor. He looked in the mirror and felt he looked like crap, but he obligated himself to this dinner. He looked in his closet, trying to decide what to wear. He saw a shirt he liked – white shirt with thin, vertical, dark-blue stripes. He smelled it; it was clean. "What pants does he have to go with them?," he wondered out loud, to no one in particular, "My jeans ... but they're dirty. What other shirts do I have? Clean shirts. There's the crazy 'puzzle shirt', but that's a bit much for a first dinner. Oh what the hell." He grabbed it, smelled it – it was clean – and then grabbed the black pants hanging nearby – also clean. He went to his dresser, opened up the middle drawer, and grabbed the first clean pair of underwear and put it on. He put his pants on, followed by an undershirt, then his shirt. He looked around for his belt – it was still wet from this afternoon. He went to his back-up belt – more beaten up than his work belt, but functional. He put it on, and then grabbed the first comfortable pair of clean dark socks which he found. He looked in the mirror and mused, "Meh. Good enough."
It was about 10 minutes before he was to meet her, so he left. Two minutes later Sarah left her apartment with her umbrella. One minute later, Greg returned to his apartment and grabbed his umbrella and left again. They arrived within one minute of each other.
Sarah smiled when she saw him. "I was wondering if you would show up, after this really bad day of yours." She paused. "I'm glad you did."
"I went back and forth several times but knew that I had invited you. I try to live up to that which I say I will do ... Some days better than others, though." Greg gave a weak smile, and Sarah understood that it was not her which weakened it.
"Shall we go in?" Sarah offered. Greg nodded and they entered into the waiting area of the restaurant. They tilted the wet umbrellas, shook them a little over the mat at the entrance, folded the umbrellas, and walked to the sign which read "Please, wait to be seated."
The hostess came over. "How many?" she inquired with a smile.
"Two," responded Greg, holding up two fingers.
"Right this way." The hostess led the way to a table in a slightly darker part of the restaurant, mistakenly thinking this was a "real date".
Greg's upbringing kicked in as he pulled the chair out for Sarah. She smiled and sat as Greg scooted the chair in. Then Greg went to the other side of the table and sat. He smiled at Sarah, although he wasn't thinking many happy thoughts.
There was a moment of silence before Sarah broke it. "I know today is bad for you. I was surprised when you asked me to dinner." Greg looked at Sarah trying to figure out how to respond. Sarah continued, "I figure I am here to listen or to distract – whichever you need at the moment. And I'm okay if your needs change from moment to moment."
Greg sat there, with moisture building in his eyes, feeling exhilarated and like crap at the same time. He was with a woman who was giving, who deserves better than he can give at the moment, but seems okay with whatever. Greg finally got out some words, "I'm sorry."
"For this date ... meeting ... therapy session ... whatever this is. My mind is trying to be here with you, but it will come and go."
Sarah looked compassionately at Greg, "I am here to break up my ordinary routine. Worst case scenario is that we don't talk for an hour, we eat, I go home, and tomorrow I get up as I would have otherwise. Best case, we become friends, and we do this again." Greg sat there in disbelief. It crossed his mind, amongst many other thoughts, that he was part of a lab experiment, but that quickly changed into a thought on the rain, and then on to other things. Sarah continued, "Do you want to talk about today?"
Greg paused for a moment knowing that if this were a real date, he would not talk about it, but instead, he took a deep breath, and said, "What the hell. I am going to dump a load of crap on you and treat this as therapy for me. If at any point you want me to stop, just say it. If you can't find the words, just storm out. I will understand." He waited to see if she would respond.
With a look like she was preparing for a hurricane to hit her at any moment, all she said was "Go for it."
Greg took another deep breath and started with, "Thank you." He then launched into a monolog about Diane and the bad break-up which just happened. He talked about how they met, how they were in love – or not – and how it ended. Mostly Sarah just sat there, smiled, and listened. Occasionally, she would react with the expected reaction – a small laugh, a look of horror, and the like. She just wanted Greg to talk it out. When the waiter would come over to see if they needed anything, Sarah acted as gate keeper, deciding sometimes that Greg needed to finish his story, in which case she would wave the waiter off, and in other cases allow him to approach. After a few hours, Greg felt like the whole meal had been cathartic. And the entire time, Sarah seemed indefatigable. She was genuinely interested in Greg's life, as she was in many other people; she enjoyed people.
.... There is more of this story ...