Clear Shelter

By Avi Leibovitch


The benches were too wet to sit on, so I stood like everyone else on the platform.

The rain tapped a furious rhythm on the concrete ground. I was tired after a long day at the office, and the thought of going home and collapsing into bed had me clenching my umbrella and suitcase tighter.

I looked up at the screen that showed the train timetable, and my heart sank. The next train would not arrive for another eight minutes. Another eight minutes of standing in the cold rain.

I then noticed the woman standing a couple of metres to my left. Wearing a scarlet red coat, she stood a little hunched, clutching a pile of folders to her chest to keep them dry. Her long, light-brown hair was completely drenched.

I wasn’t quite sure what came over me, but I walked up to her and held my umbrella over. She looked at me and her eyes widened, clearly startled by the unexpected company.

‘Sorry,’ I said, ‘but you seem to need the cover more than I do.’

She smiled. Dimples appeared on her perfect cheeks.

‘Thank you,’ she said, straightening her posture. ‘It’s my own stupid fault for leaving my bag at work.’

‘Well, I blame the weather,’ I joked. ‘It’s because of the rain that you have to worry about your folders… and that I’m stuck here protecting them.’

She laughed, and I felt something flutter in my chest.

‘I actually love the rain,’ she said. I must have looked just as confused as I felt, because she quickly continued, ‘I don’t mean that I like getting soaked.’

She held her hand up in the rain. Droplets hit her palm, collecting into a small puddle, which she gently spilled.

‘I just love watching the drops fall, like a collective shower. It’s like the rain takes over the world around you.’

I listened to her but couldn’t quite grasp the significance of what she meant. Perhaps I was too quiet, because she reddened a little.

‘Never mind me. I don’t know what I’m rambling about,’ she said.

I grinned.

‘Nah, you probably have a better idea than most of us.’

I held out my hand.

‘I’m Peter.’


Even though her palm was still wet, it was warm at the shake.

I heard the blare of a horn, and the train pulled up to the platform. Together, we entered the carriage, and I closed the umbrella.

* * *

Emily and I had been seeing each other after work for a few weeks, meeting at the train station. At first it was just coffee, but then we started going out for dinner.

The rain had not stopped since we first met, so we would walk through the city under my umbrella.

Today she had arrived at the station before me, and I quickened my pace to give her cover.

‘Have you considered getting yourself a brolly?’ I asked.

‘Why? You don’t like sharing with me?’ she teased.

We took a train to the inner city, where we found ourselves walking through streets, coloured with lights emanating from shops and restaurants. We were meant to find a place to eat, but had got lost in conversation and walked mindlessly.

The downpour was particularly loud and heavy, as if it wanted us to notice it as we walked huddled under cover, chatting.

I was listening to Emily talk about a book she was in the middle of reading, when something caught my eye. She must have realised I was distracted.

‘What is it?’ she said.

I grinned, and said, ‘Follow me.’

I took her hand and led her into the souvenir store right next to us. We went towards the items displayed by the shop’s front window.

‘What are we doing here… oh!’

We were looking at a bucket full of umbrellas, all sticking out by the hooked handle. Emily laughed.

‘You really don’t like sharing your umbrella with me?’

‘I just don’t want you getting wet in the rain when I’m not around,’ I protested.

I wanted to buy her something, and this was a good excuse. We looked through the bucket and discovered that almost all the umbrellas had a clear plastic canopy, except for the few patterned kids-sized umbrellas.

I picked one up and examined it. The white, hooked handle felt light in my hand.

‘Well, that’s disappointing,’ I said.

‘Why’s that?’

‘The shop only has the ugly, see-through umbrellas.’

Emily raised an eyebrow. ‘I suppose you think your black brolly screams fashion?’

‘Well, maybe not,’ I said. ‘But I think there’s a properness to owning the traditional caned, black umbrella.’

Emily laughed.

‘I guess not everyone sees the hype in properness,’ she said. She pulled a plastic umbrella from the bucket. ‘Besides, with this I can stay dry and see the rain at the same time.’

I wasn’t sure how to respond. Perhaps I would never understand her fascination with the wet weather.

I paid for her umbrella, and we continued our search for a place to eat dinner.

* * *

Again, it was raining. Emily and I walked on the wet pavement covered with puddles reflecting the silver sky.

We both had one arm linked together, and an umbrella held by the other. It was Sunday, and we had just finished our lunch at a café in Elsternwick.

‘Damn this weather,’ I said, circling around a large puddle. I had already stepped in two, and could feel my socks beginning to dampen.

‘It’s not that bad compared to yesterday,’ Emily said. ‘Besides, we have the outdoors to ourselves.’

She was right. The streets were empty, and there were very few cars on the road.

‘It feels nice that it’s the two of us out here,’ she said.

I felt that flutter in my chest. Then I had an idea.

‘I actually know a place where we can sit in shelter for a bit,’ I said. ‘It’s a park not far from here. I think it’s called Green Meadows.’

‘Lead the way!’ Emily said.

We reached an intersection, and I pressed the crossing button. When the green man appeared, we began to make our way across the road.

Halfway through the crossing I glanced at Emily next to me, and felt my blood run cold. I grabbed her by the coat and pulled her back with all my strength.

As she went stumbling backwards, a car tore past, missing her by centimetres.

We stood in silence, but I could hear my heart hammering in my ears. Then I remembered we were in the middle of the road, so I took Emily’s hand, and we walked to the footpath.

Emily spoke first.

‘That was too close.’

I nodded.

She looked at me. ‘It’s a good thing you were paying attention.’

‘Actually,’ I said, ‘it’s a good thing you have a clear umbrella.’

She narrowed her eyes. ‘What do you mean?’

I pointed at the top of her umbrella.

‘I only saw the car coming at us through the see-through plastic. If you were carrying one like mine…’

I didn’t finish the sentence. I didn’t have to.

‘Hang on, what happened to your…’ Emily asked.

We turned around and saw three broken pieces of a black umbrella scattered across the road.

At that moment, I realised my hair and clothes were soaked. I could feel the rain patter on my face, but strangely, I was okay with it.

* * *

I finished work later than usual today, so I hurried to the station, hoping to catch the next train on time.

The puddles on the street rippled with every pelting raindrop. I shifted the collar of my jacket closer to my neck to protect myself as much as possible from the downpour.

I entered the station platform and saw that the next train would arrive in five minutes. Since I had nothing to shelter me, I folded my arms to my chest. My breath materialised in the cold air in front of me.

Watching the rain put me in some sort of trance. It was almost like it transformed the entire world. The precipitation revealed beams of light from the lampposts in the dark night. It was a non-verbal force of nature that roared when it hit the ground. And it turned the air into a patterned force of chaos; like static on a television screen.

Something happened that brought me out of my daze. At first, I wasn’t sure what had changed, until I realised that I no longer felt the pattering sensation on my head.

I turned around, and saw Emily holding her plastic umbrella over the both of us.

‘Have you considered getting yourself a brolly?’ she said with a ghost of a smile.

I grinned.

‘You don’t want to share with me?’

We took each other’s hand, our interwoven fingers warming up instantly.

The train arrived, and we entered the carriage under the clear shelter of her umbrella.





, , ,