Two men, one on the rise, one down on his luck and homeless, find themselves alone together during a rainy day in this deeply romantic story of reversals of fortune.
NOTE: This story appears in Rob Rosen's best-selling collection, Short Spurts.
That’s how I met Cam. He was a regular homeless fixture on my building’s front stoop. He was there at all hours of the day and night, and we were forever saying hello to one another. He also received virtually all of my pocket money since I’d moved in. After all, I figured it was good karma to share my newly-acquired wealth.
Still, beyond the simple pleasantries we exchanged, plus whatever coins I handed him, and the fact that we knew each other’s names, we were nothing but passing strangers. Well, I was passing; he was always planted in front of my building, staring up and smiling at me like all the other homeless that I past in my somewhat-affluent neighborhood.
And yet, there was something different about this man. Unlike the other nearby vagrants, he stood apart. Oh sure, he was dirtied and disheveled, his hair long and in need of a washing, his beard unkempt and scruffy, but behind his startling blue eyes, there was a clarity. And the way he spoke, you could tell he’d been educated. And yes, at some point in his life, he must’ve been a handsome man. Often, I imagined what he would look like off the streets, clean and showered and nicely dressed. Even more often, I imagined what he looked like out of his filthy clothes and butt-naked.
Then again, soon enough, I wouldn’t just have to imagine it.
It had been raining hard that morning. I’d finished my morning cup of coffee at a nearby café and was running home in a futile attempt to stay dry. And there was Cam, as always, huddled beneath two feet of overhang and an already soaked piece of cardboard. Rain poured down his drenched head and got caught inside his dense beard.
He looked up when I approached, and my eyes locked on tight to his sapphire irises. He forced a smile. “Raining cats and dogs,” he said with a nod. “Where’s Noah when you need him?”
I grinned and handed him three quarters. My heart melted at his appreciativeness. Hurriedly, I climbed the stairs and went to open the building’s front door, but my hand froze on the spot. Despite my better judgment, I turned around. He was still staring at me with those fierce eyes of his.
“Um,” I said, shaking the water out of my umbrella. “Seeing as there aren’t any arks floating nearby, maybe you should come in and dry off.”
His smile widened. “You sure?” he asked. “I mean, you don’t even know me or anything.”