It's raining in San Francisco. People crowd under an awning, one woman bending from the waist to look up toward the sky, a drop catching her eyelid. She blinks, then smiles and shakes her head.
My boots shine in white light from a laundromat. A young girl in a striped hat circles the central counter, middle finger tracing her path along its surface. She looks over at sister or mother loading clothes, and begins another round.
I'm running late, and the bus is too. I step out to hail a cab.
Crazy night with the rain, the cabbie says. He turns up the volume for Ave Maria.
The city seems to slow down, moving in time to the music. Girls in tiny skirts stretch their naked legs hopefully in skyscraper heels, every step a prayer.
Benedicta tu in mulieribus
A sodden Santa looks up as we pass, water dripping from his beard. Lights blink in store windows. I ask the driver to drop me off several blocks early; I want to walk. I climb out into the cold, rain hammering onto my umbrella.
Ora pro nobis peccatoribus
At the corner store, teenage boys crowd the man behind the counter. They imitate his speech impediment, cruelly, but he doesn't raise his voice. Buy something or leave, he says, words squeezed and misshapen, but his eyes sharp. The kids are embarrassed, reaching into pockets to pay, edging back out into the night. I bring my juice to the counter and he looks at me, smiling gravely, like a blessing.
Still raining, he says.