Day 144: Lou Wore His Rain Hat
The dark gray afternoon light peeked through the blinds when Lou woke up. But that’s not to say that he was actually sleeping. He didn’t remember the news ending, but the TV was suddenly deep into a soap opera. Looking down at the table, he absently twirled his finger in the bread crumbs. He thought about writing SOS, but decided that it was too dramatic. He didn’t need any saving. If anything, it was him that needed to do the saving. Upstairs, he swore he could hear Betty vacuuming. Even though that’s not possible, he knew that if she were there, she’d definitely be doing that. The typical afternoon was underway and here he was, slack jawed and still sitting at the kitchen table. After thinking twice he ate half of the remaining crust and cleaned his plate.
Looking outside, Lou couldn’t tell what was going on with the weather. The prospect of snow gave way to misty rain, but it didn’t even look like that was going on. It just looked…wet. And cold. And dark. And probably some other things. Lou figured he’d better be safe than sorry and strapped on his rain hat. Heading to the door, he could hear Betty’s voice beckoning. Don’t forget your mask. It dangled by itself on the key hook. As much as it annoyed him, Betty always insisted. Not that it did her any good. He reluctantly grabbed it and headed outside.
The mask was ill-fitting. It was some cheap doo-dad that Betty bought on Canal St. It hardly covered his nose and mouth and stuck out like a duck bill. He always expected it to make his voice sound like a kazoo, but it never did. Just muffled his regular voice. Combined with his trusty rain hat, he would surely grab attention. But that’s fine. “Let them gawk”, he said aloud to nobody. Nobody. There was nobody around. Hands deep in his pockets, Lou headed towards the train.
The N was sparsely populated today. Just a few people lost in their own world. Anonymous people going about their day, tapping on their phones. He noticed a large bearded man trying to take a picture, but he didn’t want to pry. Those darn tourists would take pictures of anything these days. Lou was smitten by a young couple entertaining their toddler. He wore a onesie with bear ears and just looked so happy and comfortable. It made him think about when him and Betty were trying to get pregnant, once upon a time. Before he knew it, he had zoned out again and was rapidly approaching his stop. The family was already gone, probably off to the Union Square farmers market or some other wholesome activity. He regained his composure, adjusted his rain hat and stepped off, almost running into the bearded man in the process.
Lou wandered around the streets of Chinatown, trying to find the place. He knew he should’ve wrote it down, but he thought he could still rely on his memory. Lo and behold, his memory didn’t fail him in the long run. By forces of cosmic gravity, Lou found himself at the florist. He silently browsed the selection, hoping that the kid playing with action figures on the floor wouldn’t call attention to his duck bill. Lillies. Betty used to love lillies. Not even second guessing the decision, he made his purchase and staggered back out into the world.
He meandered, window shopping for some time. Time. So much time has passed. It went fast and slow at the same time. He wasn’t getting any younger, but the kids were. He guesses that’s how life always worked. One minute, he was a pup in the confusing world and now there he was, old, withered, duck billed and just as confused. Suddenly, the sky opened up and the rain started falling. Vilification. He was right to wear his rain hat. And he was safe from disease with his duck bill. “Take that, world”, he victoriously thought. It’s the small wins that make life worthwhile. But then he realized that the hat was only covering his head, so he beelined to the building.
The office reeked of stale coffee. Just as it always did and always will. His feet creaked loudly on the cheap carpeted floor boards. At the reception desk sat the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Just being in her presence made his heart skip a beat. It took him aback for a second, but he cleared his throat to get her attention. She still didn’t look up from her magazine.
Her hazel eyes slowly lifted from the magazine and lit up. He held out the bouquet of lilies.
“These are for you…”
“Lou, they’re beautiful! But you didn’t have to come all the w—“
“I got lonely. The house wasn’t the same without you. You know you really didn’t have to go back so soon…”
“It was just a flu. And I’ve been fine for days! You can’t keep me locked up forever.”
“I suppose. Want to get some soup dumplings? My treat!”
“I think I deserve a break! Lemme just find some water to put these in and I’ll let Frank know. I’ll be just a minute if you want to have a seat, sir”, Betty winked.
Lou sat in his usual seat and adjusted his duck bill. Betty turned to see it and smiled to herself. She’s glad that he’s finally being responsible. The months of prodding had paid off. Lou closed his eyes, tilted his head back and as he heard the faucet run in the distance he came to a horrible realization:
He had just ate.