Like All Storms Do

Prose by Annie Wang

Art by Adri Marcano

It was a warm night. 

It’d rained twice today, once in the early morning and again in the last hour. It was still drizzling when they’d left the restaurant, and no one had brought an umbrella. Sol had seen everyone into their cars, propped her arms up against their rolled-down windows to say just a few more words, and then she’d waved them all off, watching their tail lights retreat into the blue-dark. She stayed until they’d all gone, and because she was there, Mei had stayed too. 

“We should walk back,” Sol said, looping her hands around Mei’s arm. Her skin was sticky from the rain. She did not ask Mei why she had waited. “It’s not raining anymore.”

Mei blinked at her. “You want to? You’re soaked.”

“It’s okay. It’s nice out.”

So here they were now, making the tremendously wise decision to walk home in the 2 am quiet. It was pleasant, in a way. They walked with their sides pressed together, damp from rain and sleepy from wine, warmed by the alcohol and the summer and each other. It was a warm night. It would be the last one for that season, though neither of them knew it yet, or perhaps were simply choosing not to know it. 



“Say something. Talk to me. Or else I’ll fall asleep.”

“While walking?” She didn’t know why she asked. She’d seen it happen. 

“Yes. While walking. You’d have to roll me home.”

“Mmm. Sure. Or I could just leave you here.”

Sol blinked an eye open, turned to look up at her. Mei hadn’t even realized she’d closed her eyes. She must have been walking like that for a while, blind except for warmth, except for touch, except for a shoulder in the dark. It was stupid and dangerous, and Mei didn’t have the heart to scold her. 

They looked at each other, and whatever Sol saw there made her laugh. 

“‘Kay,” she said. Her hair had fallen out of its tidy bun, floating in dark, humidity-frazzled strands around her face. “Leave me, then.”

They turned the corner. Ahead was a narrow, puddly lane, cluttered with garbage bins and absent of lights except for a single lonely streetlamp, down at the very end. Mei had never been down this way before. The streets they’d walked on earlier had been quiet, but not still. There’d been the occasional passing car, or orange-lit restaurant, or wisp of laughter, fluttering out an open window. Now there was none. The world had slipped off to sleep, and forgotten them. 

You’re the one who’s leaving, Mei thought. The thought was like unsheathing a knife; she slipped the blade back from where it had come. “How was tonight? Get everything wrapped up?”

Sol shrugged. Mei felt the movement against her shoulder. “I didn’t cry,” she said. 

Mei blinked. “I guess not,” she replied, stupidly. “Did you—I mean, did you want to?”

Another shrug. “I just thought I would.” She paused. “Ugh. I get so maudlin when I drink. Okay! Sobering up now!”

In one quicksilver motion, she untangled herself from Mei and skipped ahead down the lane, drowsiness forgotten. Mei stumbled, thrown off by the movement. Her limbs still felt gooey and slow, stuck in that same haze she’d been treading all night, all her senses embarrassingly delayed. Maybe it was the wine, maybe it wasn’t; she couldn’t think right now, her mind like a koi pond, orange flashes of thought darting in all directions. She was too slow; she couldn’t grab any of them. 

“Come on!” Sol called. She was much further ahead now, each word a shout. “I want to go home and eat ramen!”

“You just ate!”

“That’s never stopped me before!”

Mei snorted. She quickened her step, as much as she could, but even then she could feel it wasn’t getting her anywhere. It was a strange feeling, walking as fast as her rain-drowsy body would take her, and still feeling like she was standing in place. 

She didn’t remember how she had reacted when Sol told her the news. It had been raining that day too—not just a warm drizzle, but a proper summer storm, the kind that you could feel in the air in the days preceding, dense and electric. They’d been curled up inside, watching The Sound of Music, and Sol had tapped her knee over the blanket, said, I have news. 

This is the part she remembers. Before the actual news, before the break of the storm. Mei had looked over and met Sol’s eyes in the blue television light, and wondered if the news was important enough to pause the movie. She couldn’t tell, then. 

I haven’t told anyone yet. Sol said. You’re the first

Oh. Mei said. She reached for the remote. 

It was good news. A job was always good news, and this one paid well, even if it did involve moving clean out of the country. It paid almost twice as much as Mei’s did, and she’d considered herself lucky to have gotten a job at all; the rest of their freshly-graduated classmates were still scrambling. 

Is it permanent? One of their friends had asked at dinner today. I mean, would you ever move back? Or, I dunno. You have plans?

I don’t know yet. Sol had replied. It was early into the night. Her hair was still pulled back, her words clean-edged, her lipstick bright enough to stain the rim of her cup. I’ll miss it here. I think I might want to come back. But who knows? Things change. 

“Sol,” Mei rasped. She couldn’t speak any louder than this, couldn’t move any faster than this, couldn’t catch her. “Sol. Wait.” 

Her voice was too quiet, she knew, but her chest still seized with a strange sort of panic at the sight of that still-retreating back, impossibly far now, a dream’s leap away. All around her, the night was dissolving, the reverie split, spitting her out onto the other side. 

Mei stumbled. 

Her feet slapped the pavement noisily, and now Sol turned, strands of hair haloing her face as her bun slipped out completely. “Mei?”

“You…” Orange. Koi pond. Too slow. She kept walking. There was a thought, except it wasn’t a thought, it wasn’t really anything. That night, Sol had chosen the movie, and The Sound of Music was Mei’s favorite. Water. Standing in place. Her hands were still empty. She wanted her to understand. “Sorry. Just…you—you walk too fast.”

“Oh.” Sol blinked. Her eyes flickered, uncertain. “Oh. I’m sorry. I’ll slow down.”

“No.” Mei said quickly, without thinking. She’d finally crossed the distance between them, and now she stopped. “No. No, it’s okay. Walk.”

They looked at each other. The corner of Sol’s mouth curled upwards. “You know,” she said quietly, “you can see the stars from here. It’s dark enough. I got distracted, looking at them.”

She was right, you could. Mei tilted her head up to look. Her words buzzed high in her throat when she spoke. “They might not have them there. Where you’re going.”

“No. They won’t have a lot of things.”

The silence deepened around them. Mei stood there for a long while, staring at the stars until her neck ached and her vision was spotty. When she looked back down, Sol had crossed the few steps over to the end of the alley. She was standing under that pale, spindly streetlamp, the light hanging over her like a low moon over water. 

“Come on,” she said, stretching an arm out. “I’m hungry.”

Later, Mei might find that she would not remember the rest of the evening too well. It had been a long night, after all, and specifically the kind of warm, drowsy, end-of-summer night that made one forgetful. Besides, it had rained, and rain always made her feel rather woozy. But she might remember this picture, of after the storm, of Sol standing under that shining little light, eyes damp, hand outstretched, waiting for her. 

“Okay,” Mei said, and laughed. “Let’s go.”