Calling myself a little lost would be an understatement. Not only metaphorically but quite literally, as I was standing in the rain on the way back to my apartment. My coat was pulled over my head to use as a makeshift umbrella; water still ran down over the edges of the jacket and wet my shirt sleeves.
I sat down on a bench to try to dry off my photography textbook. Professor Williams would just love to see water stains all over the pages. I closed the book again and set it on the edge, pulling my phone out to call a cab.
Another man walked in front of me, his face mostly covered with a hood and his hands stuffed into his pockets. The motions were enough to blow some of my notes out of my book and to spill them on the ground.
"Damn it," I said, moving to retrieve my notes.
The man turned around. "Sorry," He muttered, bending over and handing me a sheet. When he leaned forward to pick up the sheets, his hood slipped off of his head.
The man's face was pale, tear-stained and a little blotchy around the eyes from what seemed to be crying. His eyes were a brilliant green color and his face gave no trace of a smile or any form of emotion. His hair was soaked with rain, sticking to his forehead. His face was a blank slate.
Then I recognized him.
"Irvin?" I asked, completely thrown.
Irvin had been in my freshman year of college. He had everything all planned out for him without the slightest touch of effort. Money, girls, friends, and the sports all settled in a perfect arrangement that allowed him to slide through the year with ease.
The next year, not so much. His grades caught up with him and he decided against getting his major in photography.
"Yeah, yeah, hey Marcus," He greeted, his heart not entirely in it. He pulled his hood back down. "Sorry about your papers."
I stared at him. "No it's fine," I said at last. "I was just on my way back home."
Irvin nodded. "Yeah, I figured."
When he stood up, I leaned my head down so I could see his bloodshot eyes under his hood. There were dried tears on his cheek. "Hey, what are you doing?"
Irvin gave a little snort. "Standing in the pouring rain, and you?"
I shook my head, tucking my textbook under my jacket. "No, I mean what's wrong?" I corrected, feeling almost as though it wasn't my place to ask. I had never seen him like this and we never talked much after freshman year, even though we had been pretty good friends.
"Nothing," He said, a little too fast. "Just the rain."
That made me mad for some reason. "Bullshit," I remarked, scanning his face again. "Your eyes are red and you look like you haven't eaten in days."
Irvin groaned, turning away from me. "Just go home, alright? None of your business."
Okay, I had to give him that. Regardless, I crossed my arms over my chest and stared at him until I saw him shift from foot to foot. If he really wanted to leave, he would have left already. He looked uncomfortable.
I sat down on the bench, showing I had no plans of going anywhere. "Come on, Irvin, we were good friends two years ago," I reminded, as if he had forgotten. "One day you just packed up and I haven't seen you since."
He didn't look at me. "I know. It's been a while."
I tried to see if he was crying; he looked thoroughly upset. "Seriously," I said. "Irvin, what's wrong?"
"Everything is wrong, okay?" He said finally. "I don't know what the hell I'm doing."
I didn't have to ask to know what he was talking about. He most likely wasn't working at a career and probably hasn't been doing much since he dropped out. At least, he didn't look like he has been occupied with much of anything.
Despite the rain dripping down my forehead, I dropped down on the bench and I motioned him to sit beside me. "Hey, why don't you sit down and tell me what's going on?"
He grudgingly sat down. "I've been working part-time at a coffee shop for now," He began, brushing off his jacket. "I'd like to try photography again but I'm not sure after, you know, sophomore year of college."
I shrugged, pulling out my camera. "Why? You were good at the actual photography," I commented, holding it under the jacket so it wouldn't get wet. "I thought you were really good. Y'didn't study much, though."
"I didn't just leave," He said suddenly. "I was planning on advancing on another major but I really wasn't interested in any others."
I knotted my hands together anxiously. "You could have tried at least."
"Thanks, mom," Irvin said.
My mouth quirked up. "You can't deny it."
He gave a small smile. "That's why I didn't," He said, and his expression went back to a blank slate. "I mean, I was going to live with my parents when I went back. But, um," Silence. "They died… in a house fire."
Alarmed, I looked at him. "They did?"
Irvin nodded, a little sadly. "Yeah, it was actually only a little after I decided to drop photography," He replied with a thoughtful lip to his lips, staring off dazedly. "I wonder what they thought when I told them."
I shifted awkwardly. "It was your choice."
He blew out a little burst of air. "A choice that they apparently really didn't like."
I swung my legs a little, feeling small next to him since he was a lot taller than me. "Why, what did they do after you told them your plan?" I asked, picking at a leaf on the bench.
He bit his lip. "They were just plain not happy."
I brushed damp hair away from my eyes. "How do you that for sure?"
"I don't know. Something about when they said they weren't happy really gave me that idea," He gave an exaggerated sigh and then gave me a little smirk, eyes brighter for a moment. I thought I imagined it since it vanished in an instant.
I snorted, wrapping the lanyard of the camera around my neck. I looked down at the camera. “I’m sorry about your parents,” I said at last. “I know how that feels.”
I had been an orphan. My parents had had me when they were too young and put me up for adoption. A few months later, I was adopted at a year old and moved to Los Angeles with Jason and Stephanie McCaffrey. Still, I knew nothing different so it didn't affect me as much as people liked to think.
Irvin looked over me. “Adopted, right?’
I nodded. “Long story short, anyway.”
He wiped rain out of his hair. “At least you have your adopted parents,” He said. "M'sure they have been helping you a lot."
His face was that of a skeleton. No emotion. The pale skin of his face was drained and blotchy, with dark rings under his eyes; he probably wasn’t getting enough sleep.
I covered my camera with a jacket, forgetting staying dry myself. I changed the subject. “Where have you been staying then? Did you get a place of your own?”
He shook his head. “Well, I’ve been staying with my cousin for a bit but he lives about an hour away from where I work,” He replied, picking up my textbook. “I’m still trying to find a place closer.”
I perked up. “Really? There are some vacancies in my apartment building,” I said, watching him flip over the pages. “Or you could stay at my place until you find somewhere.”
He shook his head. "I can't."
I interrupted him, “Why not?” I asked. “It’ll be closer to your job until you figure out what you’re planning on doing. I cook, you clean.”
He snorted. “I’m not going to be your housewife.”
I rolled my eyes, sitting back against the arm of the bench to look over at him thoughtfully. I always knew he was stubborn; he didn’t realize that I was too. “I’m not asking you to be my housewife, I’m asking you to stay for a while until things get settled.”
Irvin rubbed at his eyes. “No, I’m just going to end up a bother. So, no."
I made a noise of annoyance. “Shut up, Irvin, and just stay for a while. Won't bother me."
He stared at me because of my bluntness. Then, he sighed. “I’m not staying any more than a couple of months. I’ll look around your apartment complex until I find somewhere.”
I grinned. "Good, now c'mon, stand up and come with me."
Irvin stood up, brushing his brown hair out of the way. "Where are you taking me?"
"I'm kidnapping you," I snorted, pushing him along. "Just trust me."
Irvin stuck his hands back into his pocket. "Never use 'kidnapping you' and 'trust me' in the same sentence," He advised.
I threw my arm over his shoulder. "Fine," I countered, grinning slightly. "I'm helping you so shut up and trust me."
My sneakers were skidding slightly on the wet pavement, though I managed to find myself at the edge of the sidewalk. It was still raining and Irvin was standing just behind me, evidently confused at what I was doing.
I wiped the rain off of my camera and held it up. "Come here," I said, handing him the camera. There was a break in the sky where the sun was appearing slightly, tearing apart the clouds as though it was tearing at the seams. "What do you think of that?"
He stared at the sky. "Fortieth degree angle from the west," He suggested, handing me the camera back. "You saw it. It could get you a good grade."
I stepped away from the offer. “I don't need it. You do."
Irvin picked up the camera. He raised it to the sky, carefully setting the focus and adjusting the angle. With his hood off and his eyes drying, he looked young again like he had when he was in sophomore year. He was focused.
He clicked the button at the top. The flash went off, capturing the image. I watched as the picture flashed across the screen, a mixture of the darkness and light that showed on the camera in an instant. The trees and ground looked like they were glowing in the vague light of the sun that broke through the sky. It was all black and white and green.
The camera would turn out to be the same camera that captured our college graduation picture.
Author Notes: Thank you for reading, I appreciate it.