Later, when she’s older and her bones pop when she bends down, she’ll remember this. It makes sense. It smells the same-- Nebraska isn’t so different from Missouri in the rain, and it’s the same muddy scent, even though she’s on the driveway and not in the grass right now. The smell remains the same, and it’s the smell that’ll make her remember, when she’s older, this day in the rain.
She’ll remember how the rain beats down, plastering her hair to her forehead. It will be longer by then, but for now it's short and stuck against her skin, refusing any attempt she makes to fix it. Longer wisps of her hair are also stuck to her cheeks, but that’s nothing. They’ve been there for an hour now, cemented by tears. Maybe she’s crying now-- she doesn’t know. It doesn’t matter, not with the rain. She shivers-- he took his letter jacket back when he drove away and she hadn’t thought about the cold consequences of that when she’d gotten into the car earlier. Years from now, she’ll buy her own letter jacket from a thrift store, adorned with letters she didn’t earn, although she won’t be wearing it when she thinks about how the rain felt clinging to the back of her thin shirt. It’ll be inside, in the closet next to her graduation gown, and she will wear it to the farmer’s market on the days she doesn’t snooze her alarm.
Now, though, she’s cold. She shivers.
Later, when she’s forgotten exactly which day of July this is, she’ll still recall the moments she spent considering whether or not to go inside her house. She would love to get dry, of course, but it’ll be air conditioned, which would chill her to the bone. Besides, her mom is in there, and if she goes in, her mom’ll see her pink-rimmed eyes even if the rain has done away with the tears themselves, and she knows she’ll have to explain to her mom how the love of her life is gone, and she’ll have to hear her mom, trying her best to be consoling, tell her that she’s only seventeen and she has her whole life ahead of her, as if it doesn’t feel like it’s ending now. When she remembers that part, when she’s older, it’ll bring a tiny, fond smile to her lips, but for now, it just sends her into another sob. She can tell she’s truly crying now-- her tears are so hot against her frozen cheeks, and she tilts her head up towards the sky. She feels like she’s communing with the heavens themselves, like the storm clouds can recognize one of their own and her tattered, faded soul is just the right color. When she looks back on this moment, when she’s an adult, she’ll mostly remember how one particularly tenacious raindrop flew right into her left eye.
When she’s rented her own apartment and then moved on from that apartment to the small house she’ll be living in when she remembers how she felt, devastated, on her knees in the middle of driveway, watching the end of the street as if staring will make his headlights reappear, as if he’ll admit everything was his fault and he made a mistake by letting her go, if only she keeps watching the turn of the road, she’ll sigh. When a few years have passed and this is no longer the worst day anyone in the world has ever had, she’ll think about how she let him drive away and shake her head a little-- that visibility was truly dangerous to drive in. Right now, however, she just blinks. She knew this would happen and she still put on makeup this morning-- it’s dripping down the sides of her face and smudging onto the palms of her hands when she wipes it away. She thinks the worst is over when she sticks her left hand in her pocket and pulls out a crumpled receipt for a cheap noodle dish and she feels her lip quiver all over again and when she exhales heavily, it seems deafeningly loud, despite the noise of the rain. When she’s grown a bit, and hears her own laugh in the same caliber rain just as loudly, it reminds her of the way the rain faded into a static back then too. Right now, though, she’s just aware of the way her breath hitches in her throat and how it shudders once she forces it out and how half of her nose is blocked. It’s hard to breathe, she finds, and she shivers again. The world is so grey, so empty, and so is she. It’s fitting.
Later, when she’s older, with her hands on her knees, winded both from laughing and from chasing her eight-month old chow-chow mix around her yard, she’ll think back to now, where she’s running out of sob, as if her lungs simply won’t force air anymore. Right now, her life is over, and her future is blank. She clutches her own forearms, a gesture half self-consolation and half a last-ditch attempt to stay warm. The rain refuses to let up, aggressive, overbearing, deafening. In a few years, when the rain hits her just as hard, it won’t seem painful at all. In fact, when she’s older and the rain reminds her of this moment right now, the rain will seem comforting. After all, it’ll be the same rain, the same water, and she won’t be able to help but smile at her former, younger self, who cared and loved so hard. She’ll look up at the rain, making sure not to get it in her eye, and admire the clouds-- they’re not empty, she’ll find, but full and lovely and she’ll laugh, despite herself, before scooping up the damp and muddy puppy. He’ll make a mess when she gets him inside, sure, but it’ll be worth it, she will think. She’ll walk towards her own door and think about the boy she’d loved so much, and wonder if he’ll be in town for the high school reunion in a few months. They will have become friends again, by then, and she will be happy with that. She’ll look back at the rain once before opening the door with the non-puppy-carrying hand and smile again at the memory of sitting out in the rain, on her knees in the middle of her parents’ driveway, and she’ll take a deep breath to smell that same rain smell that had surrounded her then.
But for now, she steadies her breath and shivers again. She wipes away the last of her tears and the rain-- a fruitless effort, to be sure, as more rain continues to drip on her face-- and stands. She stands, and lets the rain run down her scalp, down her spine, and she takes a breath.