Here is the second piece I wrote working with an amazing photographer Justin Leveque. I had the privilege of having Justin in a writing class where he wrote pieces that were acerbically witty and filled with heart. He's a cartoonist, artist in general, writer, and photographer and I was so glad he was willing to give me a couple of images to write a story around. Here are his images and the words I wrote around them:
UMBRELLA LOVE by Tanya Eby Images by Justin Leveque
The umbrella waited for him in the rain-kissed street, as if a movie had been filming nearby and had wetted the pavement just to enhance the moment for him. When Brent saw the umbrella, he felt drawn to it. If he’d had an umbrella when he’d run out to order a burrito from Señor Loco, he’d have had one of those sturdy black umbrellas with the sharp point at the end. Actually, he’d have had one of those cheap umbrellas that they sell on the corner for five bucks. The blue kind. The kind that tatters and flips in the first strong breeze. If Brent had been an umbrella, that’s the kind of umbrella he’d have been: easily flipped and torn apart.
This umbrella was different. See-through, spotted, feminine, delicate. It rocked in the middle of Fulton by the corner of Fuller, the corner where bistros sat across from the Veteran’s park where they lined up for free tacos on Tuesday. This umbrella called to him and before he knew what he was doing, he was crossing the busy street to rescue her.
This was an umbrella that belonged to someone and Brent knew in his gut that something bigger than himself and Señor Loco was happening tonight. Something that could possibly be love.
He scooped up the umbrella, held it above his head even though it was no longer raining, and ran across the street as an angry driver in a Cadillac laid on the horn and flipped him the bird. Brent turned his back to it.
Now what? What did he do? His hunger was momentarily forgotten, as love and burritos did not mix, and he scanned the street. This was one of those moments that happened in the movies. Those cute-meet moments. He would find the quirky girl that this umbrella belonged to. She would be wearing a red rain coat and a beret. He would say “Hey, I think I have your umbrella,” and she would say, “Yeah, that’s mine. It doesn’t go with your outfit,” and they would laugh and there would be a close-up of her red lips, of his hand running through his messy hair, and this would be the start of love.
Men thought of love too. Not just in the movies. Just this morning, Brent had stood under the lukewarm stream of his apartment’s shower, imagining a woman with curly brown hair in the shower with him, her red lips parting, a smirk on her mouth as she wiped a bead of water from her chin and then said “I want to taste you,” and he closed his eyes and knew that was love. Real love. Love you could hold in your hand, or in your mouth. Love that fit in your palm like the weight of a handle.
But where was she?
That was the question.
He would look for her and find her on the corner of Fulton and Fuller. He would hand her the umbrella. “This must be yours,” he’d say, and they would laugh as it started to rain again.
But how do you find love on the corner of Fulton and Fuller when it is no longer raining? When the homeless across the street look to you and hold up signs asking for money and food? Do you run to the library and cry out your longing? Do you go into the dress shops in Monroe Plaza and scare half-dressed women trying on clothes that don’t suit them? “Is this yours?” do you call, knowing that you sound desperate, and sad, and hollow?
An umbrella in the road is not a mistake. An umbrella in the road has been abandoned.
After a few moments of searching, Brent closed the umbrella up, and crossed the street again to Señor Loco. He ordered the burrito that promised to be bigger than his head and was, in actuality, exactly the same size as his noggin. He sat in the cold booth, letting the air conditioning chill his skin. He cut into the burrito, sprinkled it with hot sauce, and clutched the closed umbrella between his closed thighs to keep it from falling.
What he wanted was more than a moment. He wanted words against his skin, and laughter, and those ridiculous inside jokes. He wanted beers with her on the porch, and hungry kisses at a party while the music pounded in their blood and in their hearts. He wanted her thighs wrapped around him. He wanted to look into her blue eyes or dark eyes or hazel eyes and he wanted her to see him and be okay with that. He wanted to say “You know what I mean,” and have her laugh a little and say “I know exactly what you’re talking about.”
The burrito sat in his stomach like a weight. He left it on the table, half-eaten, grabbed the umbrella and walked outside where the sun was shining.
He began to walk.
A man was not supposed to want love so much, but a man did. A man dreamed just like women did. A man noticed couples everywhere, happiness everywhere, balance, perfection, kindness. A man held an umbrella even though it wasn’t raining and waited for the moment when he would be needed.
He walked for a long time. And when the day blended into night and he walked down an abandoned alley, the umbrella nestled against his shoulder instead of using it like a cane, Brent thought that maybe it was time to do something with his life.
He didn’t know what that something was, but he was sure it had something to do with being a better person, a fuller person, a person who had some kind of purpose. He could’ve set the umbrella next to a dumpster and it would’ve blended in with the shadows and the detritus of the alley. Instead, he walked home, the see-through, polka-dotted umbrella still in his hand, waiting for the time when it would be needed. Maybe that time would come. Brent would be ready for it. It would rain again, someday.
Follow Justin on Twitter @levequejustin