By the time it was Elijah’s turn to peel off his headphones and unpin his nametag for lunch, the rain fell from the end of his nose in a steady drip, and his clothes clung to him like a second skin. The seat of his desk chair squelched when he rolled it back to stand, the wet wheels squeaking over the soggy carpet.
The cloud had accumulated over his head shortly after he’d arrived at the office, sometime between when he’d put his lunch into the overstuffed refrigerator and snuck away from a one-sided conversation with two overly-enthusiastic interns. It had been small at first, cotton candy in texture and white as cotton. He’d spotted it in the reflection of his still-dark computer screen, but shrugged off its presence as no harm done.
It was after his second phone call but before Deborah had finally snuck into her cubicle almost an hour late that the first drops had started to fall. He felt it like pinpricks along his uncovered arms and face and barely-there touches over his shirt and pants. It distracted him enough that he misquoted a price to a customer, and had to quickly backtrack before he dug himself into a hole he couldn’t dig himself out of.
He hoped his manager didn’t catch wind of it.
That thought seemed to be like poking a dragon though, because the rain kicked up and the air around him started to move like a current—as if he were at the center of his own little hurricane. His bangs fluttered in the slight wind, the rain soaking through his clothes within a few minutes. When the rain started to drip on his paperwork, he pushed everything to the back of his desk, hoping to save what he could. He snuck a peek at the cubicles around him, but no one paid him any mind.
Now it was lunchtime, and Elijah’s teeth were starting to chatter from the air-conditioning cooling his soaked clothes and skin. He left damp footprints on the thin carpet in his wake on his way to the restroom. His only saving grace was that he’d yet to draw attention to his unfortunate circumstances. There had been no questions or reprimands, which he silently thanked whatever gods he could think of for. Admittedly, he couldn’t think of many. He idly wondered if that was how he got into his current predicament.
Once in front of the restroom mirror, he groaned at the severity of his situation. The cotton candy cloud had become a dark, woolen swirling of grays and blacks, lightning striking along his hairline, lighting the edges of the cloud, and sending some of his hair to stand on its ends.
The rain was near torrent level now, his bangs drooping wetly into his face. His shirt was soaked through, outlining his shoulders, chest, and gut, his blue tie near black in its water-logged state. He could feel the water dripping down his face, his arms, his legs into a puddle on the sink and onto the tile floor.
Elijah was at a loss. He couldn’t recall how to handle the appearance of your own personal rain cloud, and he wasn’t sure what his next steps should be. Should he call off? Go home and call the doctor? Was it a physical illness or mental? Was it an illness at all, or divine intervention?
With shoulders lowered and face in a sullen droop, he pulled down several wads of paper towel, trying unsuccessfully to dry off his hands and his arms, but it did no good. They quickly became soaked again, and he gave it up as a lost cause.
When he got back to his chair, to his water-logged seat and damp desk with puddles under the mouse and keyboard, he was hit with a sudden wave of exhaustion. He sat hard into the seat, sending water squelching in sudden drips to the floor, and the noise seemed loud in the near-silent room, the click-clack of keyboard keys the only other noise.
“Elijah?” He jumped and turned, feeling relief to find his co-worker, Jamie at the entrance to his cubicle. They’d always got along, acquaintances if not nearly friends. “You doing okay?”
The question caught him off-guard, but his response was immediate. “Of course. I’m fine.” Even as he said it, he knew it was the wrong answer. Her raised eyebrow seemed to echo his feelings, so he sighed and turned his creaking chair to fully face her.
“To be honest, I’m struggling. Have been for a while. I think it’s getting to me today.” As he said it, he felt something lift. The rain started to stutter, the lighting and thunder near his ears quieting.
“Maybe we can grab dinner after work?” she says, leaning against the wall of his cubicle and giving him a soft smile. “I got some time, and I’ve always meant to ask. You’re the best salesman we have, so I’ve always been kind of intimidated. But you’ve seemed down lately. I’ve been worried.” The way she tilts her head, her eyes earnest, and brow furrowed makes the rain turn to a drip.
“I’d like that,” he says, and he means it. The rain stops. “And really, I admire your attention to detail. You’re so organized, I’ve never been able to keep things straight like you do. Maybe we can help each other too.”
She nods, and her smile widens. It’s slightly crooked, one cheek raised more than the other. He doesn’t know how he didn’t notice before. “We can do that, but not tonight. Tonight, let’s focus on what’s getting you down.”
With that, he doesn’t have to look to know the cloud dissipates like a waking dream.
Hours later, his desk dry and his seat left with only a few damp spots, he wonders at rain clouds and how sometimes the answer to rainy days is knowing that someone else will stand with you in one.