In the Rain–a Behind the Curtain Ficlet
A funeral, on any day, was the worst day ever.
The rain and the mud didn’t even made it worse–it just reassured everybody that the small coffin was just as painful, just as tragic, as any onlooker could imagine.
Dawson stood next to Jared in the pouring rain and held the umbrella over their heads, while Jared clutched his cane and scowled into the gray muddle of somber faces. Dawson had no idea what he was thinking.
The child had been in Jared’s special night class–her heart had given out suddenly, and her parents were devastated. Dawson hadn’t known her–he volunteered with another class–but Darian had, and she was sobbing in Benji’s arms next to them.
But Jared wasn’t crying. Just that impassive scowl into the rain.
For the last week, he’d been like that. A ghost dancer in their apartment. He’d made dinner when it was his night, he’d done the dishes, paid the bills–even come to a show Dawson and Benji had been running.
But there had been no sudden smiles, no quiet laughter.
It was like the heart of him had always been meant to be here. In the rain. And Dawson wanted to scream. He didn’t though–just held the umbrella over his head and shivered.
The graveside service ended, and people trudged back to their cars, Dawson keeping the umbrella steady as Jared concentrated on not slipping in the mud. When they got to Dawson’s car–a Chevy Impala as an upgrade to the Toyota that had pretty much rolled over and died–Jared got in silently and Dawson closed the door behind him before moving around to the driver’s side. Once he sat down and started the car, he asked, “Whereto?”
He expected to hear, “Home!” but Jared surprised him.
“The zoo,” he said.
“Really? In this–“
“Alrighty then.” Dawson didn’t mention they were both in their best wool suits, or that their overcoats had soaked through. He didn’t mention the umbrella still sopping wet in the back of the car. He just drove to the freeway and then the fifteen minutes to the zoo.
Of course it was practically empty, and Dawson had no idea what the person at the entrance thought of two grown men in funeral suits buying tickets, but he followed Jared as he walked to the giant bird pond near the front. After a moment of trying to figure out what his boyfriend was thinking, Dawson looked out at the birds.
And was surprised.
“This is the best day in the world for them,” he said, surprised a little. Flamingos, it turned out, gave zero fucks about the rain. The ducks loved it. The other birds were fairly amused.
“Glad it’s good for somebody,” Jared said, also sounding surprised. He turned then and walked, to ignoring the reptile cage–thank God, although there was a giant gorilla in a sweatshirt and jeans with a teeny excited girl heading that way, because apparently Dawson and Jared weren’t the only nut jobs in the rain. Instead, though, they went to the red panda enclosure–and the pandas were draped about in the rain, seemingly oblivious.
The monkeys didn’t mind it either.
In fact, nobody seemed to mind the rain, not even the two dumb humans trying desperately to stay under the umbrella.
At the end of the walk, Jared turned toward the bonobo cages and smiled a little. “She always wanted to dance like animals,” he said randomly–maybe the second thing he’d said all day.
“Yeah? Which ones?”
“Depended on the day. Some days she wanted to dance like flamingos. Some days it was leopards. Some days it was zebras. And she’d tell me and Darian stories about why she was making her body go like the leopard or the zebra or the flamingo. And we’d look forward to it, you know?”
“I bet,” Dawson said, heart aching. He’d heard them talking about this kid, Megan. But he hadn’t heard this.
“And that last day, she wanted to dance like a turtle. Slow. and she wobbled her body back and forth. And she might not have felt s good, because she was slow all day, but we said it was okay, everybody got a turtle day.”
Oh Jared. “You couldn’t have known,” Dawson said softly.
“I know. I mean, me and Darian, we were one part of her life, all week. But… but I like to think we were a part she looked forward to.”
“Of course you were.” All the kids loved their studio. They had enough students that Jared was hiring another former dancer to come in on the nights he couldn’t. Elena was a nice lady, with an orthopedist husband and a new daughter and an impossibly big Italian family–but she hadn’t been there for this.
Jared let out a sigh, and wrapped his free hand around Dawson’s waist, leaning his head on his shoulder. Dawson wrapped his arm around his shoulders and nuzzled his hair.
“I’m going to miss her,” Jared said, voice breaking.
“I know, baby. I’m so sorry.”
“Thanks for coming,” Jared whispered.
“Where else would I be?”
There was nowhere else to be. They stood there until Jared started to shiver, watching the monkeys play in the rain.
“Come on, baby,” Dawson said, tugging gently. “Someday you’ll see a kid dancing and it’ll be a monkey day or a flamingo day, and you’ll be okay again. And you’ll remember Megan and it won’t hurt.”
But Jared didn’t move until Dawson cupped his wet cheek and pulled him in for a salty kiss. Dawson pulled back. “Someday, we’ll come back here in the sunshine, and we’ll teach your other kids how to dance like a turtle.”
Jared nodded. “Promise?”
And Dawson heard it, the need to know that not all days would be this sad. Dawson had always been the one who could see sunshine in their future. He hadn’t ever realized that was a gift, that it would define him, as an adult, as a lover, but here, now, looking at Jared’s mercury blue eyes pleading for solace, he realized that it was his most precious commodity. His professor had once said he’d “earned his charmed life”–he hadn’t ever known what that meant until now.
He found optimism and hope on this shitty day, and breathed it into Jared’s tired heart.
He pulled back and smiled. “I promise. Let’s go get warm, baby. Let’s watch Animal Planet videos and make up dances for all your kids, okay? Your friend doesn’t have to be gone forever, not when she’s bringing you joy in your heart, right?”
Jared nodded, shaking a little. “Right.”
Dawson guided him back to the car and when they got home, he set water heating for hot chocolate before he joined Jared in the shower.
Warmth seeped into their bones gradually, and soon the two of them were on the couch, cradling their chocolate, doing what Dawson had promised. Amber joined them, having spent the time after the funeral with Darian and Benji, and as they watched bonobos gambol across the screen, she looked up at Jared. “Why don’t you ever make a dance like that?” she asked.
“Planning on it,” Jared told her, leaning his head against Dawson’s chest. Later, they would make love, very quietly, and Dawson would remember those moments, looking at the animals in the rain. The world sucked sometimes, in the cruelest ways. The fact that the human heart could be patched together again and again and again every time it was broken was one of the only reasons Dawson’s lover was still walking around.
Dawson was grateful that he was the one with the duct tape and the glue to help Jared patch things up again. He didn’t trust anybody else with the job.