It is that most unfortituous of circumstances- I am a gentleman with an umbrella. Compounding the matter is the uneasily smiling lady beside me, under the shelter of a shophouse on the street, and the pavement opposite, which we both seem to have designs on. Very well, then. I offer her my umbrella and smile. Her grin grows wider, but points at the other side and cocks her head to one side, as though asking me if I myself am hazarding a crossing. I nod lightly, and her eyebrows crease together, as though my simple movement had completely destroyed her plans.
Perhaps the scene bears more description. It was a dreary afternoon's monsoon, all the stores were closed on a Sunday, and precious few offered sheler in the form of a tarpaulin or something of the sort hanging over the pavement, where chained metal shelves marked where storekeepers hawked their wares. I was on the way home after visiting a friend who lived just upstairs, when the sky suddenly stamped its foot in childish indignance and let out a stream of tears that would put whole nurseries to shame. As I was considering whether I should risk the crossing in such inclement weather, along my side of the road came the young lady mentioned above, hair dripping from a sprint through the rain, who stopped only to catch her breath and gaze undisguisedly longingly at the umbrella clutched in my fingers.
Naturally, I offer it to her, but as though possessed by some sort of conscience, she refuses to take it until I tell her if I am crossing the road also. Very well, I am, dear miss, but there is no possibly method by which we may both cross without one getting utterly soaked, the thunderstorm being what it is. As ill-tempered as the heavens, she refused pointedly, and asked to cross the road together, since we were both headed that way, and it wouldn't hurt to sprint just a little more so we wouldn't get as soaked.
There is no reasoning with women sometimes, unfortunately. I try to explain the merits and demerits of fording what had verily become a fast-flowing river on a bed of bitumen, but she says no, no, no, and if I was going to waste some more time she would just run across and hope there was shelter round the bend. Very well, she could try, but I did make it quite clear I would not readily urge any person to do it.
So she sprinted off, and I took off after her, hastily blooming out the umbrella, in the process smashing countless raindrops from their earthward course, receiving another myriad into my face, and managing only to save a couple of hundred from hitting the both of us. In retrospect, it was something amazingly silly.
That way we walked along the damp grey cobblestones, half-huddled under a shelter that could barely even protect one, each sighing, smirking, smiling to ourselves. Our feet made gigantic splashes in time to the minuscule dripples of the raindrops, throwing up great big dollops of water that soaked our socks and made our toes tingle. All around us, those droplets destined for the ground managed to swerve around the terribly inadequate umbrella, and soaked my right side and her left.
It was in that manner that we shuffled onward, paradoxically edging farther from each other, as though space were more important than warmth and shelter. So I stepped a little to my right, and she stepped to hers, but feeling a little guilty, moved left a little, and it was quite the vicious cycle that ended with the both of us getting immeasurably drenched.
Eventually, she shook her head in tremendous amusement, grabbed the umbrella from my hand, and closed it, grinning in the sheer hilarity of the moment. I shrugged, and stuffed my hands in my pockets as she grinned even wider (if that were possible), skipping along like a stone refusing to sink, while I plodded on like a brick trying to fly, trying my best to ignore the cold that I was going to get, the fever to follow that, and a month's worth of warm chicken soup I was desperately convincing myself to invest in.
Assuredly it does not take long to get soaked, not nearly aeons to walk around with fringe plastered to sideburns, and certainly not eternity to start wondering if you are clinically insane as you stumble about, wiping splashes from your eyes, trying not to get your feet more drenched than they already are, wishing for a warm bed, a hot water bottle, and your favourite teddy bear. But then again, madness was never particularly reasonable, was it?
Eventually I wonder if the rain will stop before we reach our destinations, and I find out: it does. Without a word that I might say, I wave to her as she turns at the junction, smile at her, then tuck my umbrella under my arm, my thoughts under my upper lip, and make my way back home.
In the sun, at least there is some warmth creeping back into my marrow, but there is no denying that my feet are still going to look like prunes and my heart itself is possibly going to catch a cold. I whip out my handkerchief in time to catch the first sneeze of the season, before remembering that it, too, is soaked and thererfore utterly useless. Then I sigh, take out my pocket-watch, and smile. At least that one is waterproof.
But men and their hearts are not, my dear reader, and they must have blankets by the fireside and mugs of hot chocolate and things of the sort. It was on a quest for comforts of that nature that my feet eventually brought me to my own doorstep, my fingers pressed the doorbell, and my lungs tried their very best to evacuate the contents of my bowels, to not much avail. Then there was the sound of the lock turning, and the door opened. My roommate, bless him, greeted me with his favourite gift of understatement.
"My goodness, aren't you damp. Don't you have an umbrella?"
"Aye, but I am also a gentleman."