She met him on the steps of her front porch, standing in the rain, with drops falling from the brim of her floral print hat. She held one arm tight to her side, and rested the hand of the other arm on an old valise. Behind her, in a large pile on the porch, was an assortment of suitcases and handbags.
“I come with baggage you know,” she said.
“That’s ok,” he replied, “Can I help carry some?”
He leaned slightly and tried to look behind her.
She leaned with him, obstructing his view, and replied, “No, they’re mine to carry, just mine, I can manage.”
“Suits me,” he replied with a shrug, “Where do you want to eat?”
“Anywhere is fine,” she said, “But someplace with lots of space between the tables, for, you know,” she said, glancing behind, “Maybe a place where we can sit outside?”
She stooped to gather up the first of her bags and he instinctively stepped forward to help.
“No,” she turned, “I can do it.”
The back of his car sagged as they drove down town, the trunk stuffed with the larger suitcases, and the back seat filled with handbags, backpacks, and a purse or two . The engine struggled on the uphill rises, and the brakes complained at every stop.
She sat in the passenger seat, holding her small clutch in her lap while she watched the downpour turn to a trickle through her window.
He took a moment to look over his shoulder at the bags, then at her in the passenger seat, and finally returned his eyes to the road.
“That’s quite a few bags,” he said.
“Yes, well, I’ve been around, seen a lot, mostly visiting, sometimes staying. Either way you sort of build up a collection over time you know? You move from one place to the next and there are the things you want to take with and there are the things that just seem to follow you.”
“Some of them look nice,” he said.
“They all look nice on the outside,“ she replied.
They ate on the boardwalk. They bought hot dogs from a gourmet hot dog stand, and he carefully wiped drops of rain off two chairs with a napkin before they sat.
“Don’t you have any?” she asked between bites.
“Any what?” he replied.
“Bags,” she said, looking over at hers all haphazardly stacked beside the table.
“I do actually. I have about as many as you, maybe one or two more. I keep them at home in a room at the end of the hall,” he said, turning a bit red and looking away.
“And you can just do that? You can just leave them at home?”
“Well, not really. Even though they aren’t here I still feel the weight. It’s like I’m carrying all of them even though you can’t see them.”
“Do you ever let anyone see them?”
“No. I only open that door to put another bag in. Other than that it’s always closed.”
On the drive back the setting sun, breaking through the clouds, forced him to put down his visor.
Halfway to her house he turned towards her to capture in his mind the way she looked; her profile framed by the car window with the blurred city as a background.
A few minutes later, with his eyes returned to the road ahead, she looked over at him, and admired the way his strong hands gripped the steering wheel.
He left her at the spot where the sidewalk from her house met the street. And after she had finished unloading, they parted with an almost kiss on the cheek that ended in an awkward hug.
As he drove back onto the road he noticed her clutch lying on the passenger seat. Turning his signal light on he made a u-turn and headed back to her house.
She had gone inside by the time he returned, and after shifting the car into park, he reached over to grab her clutch, and then stopped, and instead opened his door, climbed out, and walked up to her front door.
He rang the doorbell and waited. A few moments later she answered, a smile on her face.
“You forgot something,” he said.
“Your clutch. It’s still in the car where you left it, I, ugh, I didn’t touch it,” he offered.
She ran to the car and grabbed it, and then brushed by him on her way back into her house. She turned and came back and on tip toes kissed him, for real this time, on the cheek.
“Thanks for that,” she said.
“No problem, I was hardly even a mile gone.”
“No, not for bringing it back, I mean thanks for that too, but what I mean is thanks for not touching it, for letting me go and get it myself. That was sweet.”
She turned to go back into her house and then turned back towards him.
“Would you like to go out again,” she asked.
“How about Tuesday?” he replied.
Author’s Note: I’ve always wanted to write a short short story about first dates, and the baggage we all carry, but in a way where the characters each glimpse a better tomorrow in spite of the weight. I fretted over this one quite a bit, and most likely put far more time into than was required to tell this siimple story. I wanted it to be subtle, but bold in style at the same time. Enjoy.
Connecting today with Imperfect Prose.