It's rained all day. I woke to it. I woke late and naked. I don't remember the last time I woke late and naked. There were dreams of trying to get to an intersection, an address given to me by someone on my phone. I was in the city. It was bright. Sunlight glinted off the corners of buildings, throwing everything into paper-sharp outline. The dream ends as the window on my phone fills with water. I wake and the house is silent. Everyone is gone and rain patters on the tiles outside.
Shopping today. There are only a few gifts to buy. I planned better this year, avoiding the rush. But there are always errands. Everything is wet. The sky is gray but the water reflects and refracts the light so that colors seem brighter against the gloom. Sounds have sharp edges. I'm about to turn left but I see the man standing on the island across the street. He's under a yellow umbrella and holding a sign. His back is to me and his sign is for the benefit of traffic leaving the shopping center. I know I'll have to be quick not to block the cars in the intersection behind me. As I pull the car up, I can see his pants are soaked from the knees down and he has a small spotted dog in one arm, partly inside his jacket. "Sir," I call to him, handing a few Ones through my window. When he turns to take the bills, I look into his face and my heart skips, time stops and I'm pretty sure I'm not breathing. Because his face... his face is the face of an angel. Such kindness, such knowing, such sadness. "Thank you," he says. I answer, something. Probably I told him he was welcome. I drove on. What is this man doing here? Standing on this corner in the rain? How does a person of such beauty come to be here, at a Target shopping center on a rainy day in the desert? Couldn't I have given more?
I drive away, feeling a little lost, as though I've forgotten something. Is it that I want to help him? Do I want to save him? No. I want him to save me.
Since when do I need saving?
I consider going back, driving around again to give him more money. Why would I do that? Because he's beautiful? There's nothing right about doing that. There are homeless people and scammers all over this desert. I treat them all the same. I decided a long time ago to give a couple of dollars, whatever small change I had on hand, to each such encounter. What's to think about? I don't have a lot of extra money. I don't have a lot of time or energy to spend determining whether the person asking for a handout is genuine or not. What does it matter?
I didn't see what his sign said. I wonder, now, how it was that he managed to hold the umbrella, the sign and the dog and still reach out for the money. A few miles down the road and I can't quite remember his face. How is that even possible after its effect on me? His hair fell in dark, wet ringlets. He had a bit of a beard over a handsome chin. His eyes...I can't remember the color. I can't explain exactly what struck me so. Wet pants, bright umbrella, spotted dog. The light.
It's this strange, wet light. It's on my face too, coming through the windshield, punctuated by the wipers. I feel exposed in that light. Unworthy. Exposed to that light which, even as I become aware of it, dims as an unseen sun drops beyond the rim of mountains made invisible by those thick gray clouds. Days end early in the desert, and this is the shortest of all.
The rain patters on the asphalt and I'm driving home. Suddenly, I want the holidays to be done with. I want to forget about angels and get back to work.