“Everybody hates the rain. I hate the rain. I’m glad it’s over.” Sometimes Matteo said what he thought was the right thing, only to learn it was totally wrong.
“Matteo! That’s not what I meant!” I glared at him, and he froze, a dumbfounded look on his face. “I love the rain. And I love when it’s over, and everything’s clean, and fresh.”
“I’m sorry, Emma. I thought…” He looked so confused, but to be honest, around me, Matteo always looked confused.
“It’s OK. It’s OK.” I poked his shoulder. “I know most people hate the rain. But I wait for it. When it comes it cleans everything. It washes the dirt out of the air. Cleans the buildings, and windows. Washes the streets, and sidewalks.”
He nodded, trying to move past his mistake. “You’re right. It does.”
“And when it’s finished, we can walk outside, in all the clean.”
Matteo seemed to be more confused than ever, as he stopped, and looked at the ocean of leaves the storms had washed down from the trees that lined the streets. “Clean. Right.”
“It’s fall, silly. The leaves are falling off the trees already.”
I wondered if all boys were like Matteo. Total dummies, but cute anyway. Almost like his inability to figure out the universe, and the world we lived in was a trait of boys. He walked beside me, as we walked home from the book store. And, as always, he paid more attention to me, and where I was, and if I was happy, smiling, laughing, than to where we walked.
The puddle made a marvelous splash as I stomped in it. The water formed an almost circular splash. It got my other leg wet, and it got both of Matteo’s legs.
So, I stomped my foot again. And got him more wet below his knees. Which ignited a puddle stomping war between Matteo and me, exactly like I wanted. I wanted to see him smile, and laugh, and forget about everything for a moment. And stomping in the puddles, trying to get each other wet, did precisely that.
We wound up standing in the biggest puddle, in the middle of the road, looking at each other, laughing. It was fun. And I liked to have fun. And I liked to make Matteo laugh. I didn’t think he laughed enough. Not like he did a few years earlier.
I knew what had happened. His father had told him to toughen up. To get serious. “You’re becoming a man, Matteo. You’re not a boy anymore. Now, you put away the ways of a boy, and you become a man.”
He’d stopped talking about what he wanted. What he felt. It was like he’d lost himself. Lost who he was. Or perhaps hidden it, behind some construct boys make when they have to turn into men. One that hides everything about them. So they become like machines, and all behave the same way.
It was sad, really. To see what was happening to him. He was my friend. Friends laugh, and talk, and cry, and sing, and do silly things, like stomp in puddles after a rain.
I wanted him to be my friend, and I wanted to be his friend. So we could have fun. And be who we were, feel what we felt. But, somehow I knew, the day would come, when he wouldn’t be the same Matteo. When he’d become more like the older boys. And I wouldn’t be his friend anymore. I’d be an object. A thing. To be possessed. A sign, or symbol, to the other boys that he’d become a man.
And I wished that didn’t have to happen.
But right then, standing in that puddle in the street, soaked below the knees, and laughing like little kids in a sandbox, was all that really mattered. And I’d take any such moments I could find.
This is written for Week 70 of Miranda Kate‘s Mid-Week Challenge. You can read about Miranda’s small fiction challenge here. Please, go read Miranda’s short tale this week, and any others that showed up. The tales are always little works of art, crafted with words, meant to be shared, and enjoyed. And many of them are amazing.