“…for today is partly cloudy with a chance of showers later in the day. That’ll bring us down to a low of about 47º this evening.” The meteorologist’s voice sounded unnecessarily chipper, especially early in the morning. I’m guessing it’s a pretty tough gig, since most days you’re going to make people upset. People love to complain about the weather, especially in the Midwest. The summers are too hot, and people beg for winter to come, but then the winters are too cold, making people desperate for summer. If there’s rain, or even clouds, people complain about the gloom, and even sunny days are too hot or cold, too windy, too dry, too humid, or who knows what else. Predicting any of these conditions is going to annoy people, so maybe being chipper is the only way to appease some of that hostility. Perfect days—something along the lines of 70º and sunny with a bright blue sky—are pretty rare, and they don’t always come when predicted, something else that annoys people. When they do finally manifest, it’s the only thing people want to talk about, even more than the usual weather small talk. Workers take long lunches or go home early, kids run wild outdoors, and even animals seem livelier. But all of this is done with a sort of desperation, knowing that the perfect weather is fleeting. Sooner or later, and in the Midwest it’s usually sooner, the weather will shift. Humidity will spike, or clouds will roll in carrying misery and frustration with them.

The rain during my first date with Marci nearly ruined everything. I have a routine for first dates. It’s not like I’m a player, but my relationships tend to fail as they approach long-term, so I try, try again. I learned that the standard dinner and a movie is safe, but generally unremarkable for a first date. Instead, I like going to the Riverside neighborhood. It’s an older, quaint part of town. There are lots of unique privately owned stores and restaurants. Since it’s away from downtown and from the more recent developments around the mall, Riverside isn’t that busy most evenings. The girl and I will get dinner and go for a walk, visiting shops until we reach an ice cream parlor. I suggest cones, and we take them across the bridge into the park. Old, wrought-iron streetlamps illuminate a meandering path among trees and flowerbeds.  By the time we get back to the bridge, we’ve usually shared our first kiss.

I had been an idiot not to check the weather before planning my date with Marci.  When we arrived at the restaurant, a cozy little pizzeria with a brick oven, the skies were already cloudy, making me uneasy. The rain broke around the same time our pizza arrived. “What’s next?” Marci asked while the waiter was running my card.

I looked at the rivulets of water running down the window beside us. “I was thinking we could just walk around a bit, but now…” Rain was still falling consistently. “Maybe we could wait it out,” I offered, though the blanket of slate-grey clouds overhead looked less than promising.

“No, your idea sounded like fun,” Marci replied. “Let’s walk around.”

“But the rain—”

“Do you have an umbrella?”

“Well, yeah.”

“Perfect.” There was a sparkle in her eyes that was irresistible. After settling the receipt and leaving a tip, we dashed out to my car, splashing through puddles so that we were already damp by the time we opened the umbrella. I couldn’t remember when we had started laughing, but we didn’t stop until we entered the first store. Ordinarily, I would only exchange small pleasantries with the shop owners, but everyone seemed to want to talk about the weather and how brave (or crazy) we were to venture out in it. They also commented on how cute we were sharing an umbrella, and several people told us we made a great couple. As we talked with them, we learned more about each other, smiling broadly each time we discovered another way we were compatible.

Feeling a bit giddy from our jaunts through the rain and from the physical contact necessitated by sharing an umbrella, we ended up buying items at almost every store, wrapping them elaborately, if a bit wastefully, in plastic bags to keep them dry. We were too chilled to eat ice cream, so we headed straight for the park instead.
Unfortunately, that was when the rain picked up. We decided to take refuge under the bridge once we had crossed. There was a rocky bank that was secure enough to walk on, but just treacherous enough that Marci continued to cling to me. Secure from the rain, we no longer needed the umbrella, but we still huddled close together.

“You’re so warm,” Marci told me, slipping her arms beneath my jacket and pressing our bodies together.

“You’re so lovely,” I said. Her nose was a bit red from the cold, and her makeup was smudged. Her hair, nicely styled when I picked her up, was now matted and tangled, but she was radiant. Life and light emanated from her smile. I leaned forward, and we kissed. I swear that for a moment, everything was still. Rain stopped falling, and instead the droplets hung in the air like diamonds. Kiss followed kiss in a torrent more desperate than the rain. We tugged on each other’s bodies, trying to become even closer, until one of our feet slipped off a stone into the water, splashing cold water all around our ankles. Laughing, we held on to each other for balance, but still almost fell into the river. Marci laughed so hard she cried.

We eventually returned to the pizzeria. Marci remembered seeing an amaretto hot chocolate on the menu, which warmed us up after all the rain. Of course, the kisses we shared in the car may have warmed us up even better. When I dropped her off, Marci christened it the perfect first date. Although I had planned many similar dates at the same locale, I have to admit that one was by far the best, and I almost missed it because I was concerned about a little rain. Maybe it’s fine to want the temperature to be just right or the sky to stretch out blue from end to end, but those days are rare. I wonder how much I’ve missed by waiting for perfection when what I really needed to do was go out and find it.

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