Shane loved rainy days.
Or perhaps more specifically, he loves the moments just before, and after, a satisfying shower; the serenity that hangs in the air; the smell of the wet tar, or grass and soil, the dark colour of the pavement like a child trying their hand at shading their own art. The air feels fresher; moist and cool, pressing against bare skin, cuts thicker as he slides downhill on his blades, like a heaving burst of air. Like rebirth, what nature could've been. A perfect period point for what was by all means a somber week.
The skatepark is nearly empty, so soon after the storm. Of course it would be, and Shane relishes in the freedom of taking up a good portion of the pavement without having to keep track of the joggers, the bikers, nor the cameras flashing on the insta-read skater girls. He'd needed the space, and he was glad to have decided to take the detour into the park instead of taking the bus home, like he should have done. The storm was worth waiting out, clearly, and there was less chance for accidents. Good. Besides his skates, Shane had brought nothing else, so his most vulnerable joints are padded simply by a thick layer of Jean jacket, a ratty year old Vampire Weekend merch shirt and his whitewashed jeans.
He wasn't alone, of course; he could hear commotion from over the skate ramps, where a gaggle of jock-y skateboarders seem to have thought similarly. He spares a thought against bumping into them, praying that they might find no interest in the more pedestrian area of the park. There is a branch up ahead, that breaks off of the main pavement, and as Shane passes by, he sees that the main body of the new lake route seems to have been mostly finished; fresh cement in winding patterns, with stimulating bumps circling tree roots and the skeletons of future benches. The construction had been going on there for about a year now, and Shane is struck with the sudden desire to explore this newfound trail.
Instinctively, he twists himself backward, sets the heel of his left foot behind his right, making a V and allowing the momentum to curve his body into a circle, stopping himself. He takes a moment's worth to consider the new trail. They weren't done yet, obviously, there is well-worn dirt where smooth cement ought to be, dotted with holes in lines Shane guesses they would stake some holding rails. It was intensely downhill, but there are already sturdy-looking rails lining the boundaries of the lake down below, so it wasn't as if he would drench himself if he loses control somewhere down the line. The gravel and rough soil should provide enough friction to slow his descent, and having years of experience navigating his inline skates, Shane feels confident enough to make the stop. It would be torture on his wheels, but he plans to recalibrate them tonight, anyway.
What was there to lose?
Shane toes the edge of the trail, sliding carefully onto soil. The ground is hard packed dirt, most days, and the storm had given them enough moisture for a smooth slide, making for a smooth transition. Positioning his legs into a T with his right foot back, he tests the glide on his wheels with his left. Bumpy, but reasonable.
Shane pushes off
Ryan hates rainy days.
More so the moments that come right before and moments after, when thunder begins to rumble, and the air is dense with moisture, like leads pulling him down, working against him. There is an uncertainty that comes with it; the limbo between somber weather and the strikingly hot sun. He could deal with a little bit of heat; he was a SoCal native, through and through, and with the sun-soaked deep within his blood, overflowing. The rain, and all it’s little moments, demand stillness, and he already gets enough of that from his parents.
The rest of the boys get irate with his attitude quickly enough, and he doesn’t put much of a fuss being shoo-ed away. He’d stopped having fun, anyway, when they had had to stop their stunts after the first roll of thunder. He was bringing the vibe down, and nothing was going to get done with his mood mowed down.
He was taking one of the well-trodden shortcuts up the hill into the pedestrian pavement when he sees him.
Ryan thinks it was a him. The blur was nearly indistinguishable, rolling down light speed like that.
He yelps, moving without further thought, dropping his board to stop what seemed like a skater who had slipped off the main pathway down the deathly steep hill below. Before he realizes what he was doing, he is standing smack-dab in his way, in a subconscious effort to utilize himself into muscling this runaway skater back into safety, but the blur gets bigger, and bigger, holy shit Ryan really hadn’t thought this thr-
Shane knocks into him, head and elbows and knees and stomachs, they are rolling, rolling, rolling down the hill faster than his brain might compute all the sensations at once, just pain, dirt, rock, elbow, ankle, ow, ow, ow-
They stop gently into some bushes, and Ryan makes note that neither of them try to get off immediately, taking a moment to breathe. Now that Ryan he’s still enough for Ryan to take proper note; he’s tall -well, long , in a horizontal position-and his skates (single file, Ryan notes, a little impressed) knock none too gently against his already scraped up shins, making him hiss in pain.
Yeah, it was catching up to him, now.
The skater speaks first.
“What,” he says, voice low and strained. “ The fuck, man,”
“Saved your life,” Ryan wheezes, as the man rolls off, pushing himself away from their impromptu cuddle session. “You’re welcome, by the way.”
“I had it under control,” The man fumes.
“Really didn’t seem like it.”
“Well, I did anyway, skater boy.” he pats himself down, pressing down on the scraped-off heels of his palms into the hems of his sleeves. “ Fuck,”
Ryan takes him in; the lack of joint pads, helmet, and the mismatched colors of the wheels of his skates, well worn, feels his heart drop into his stomach and his face heat in humiliation. It seemed entirely possible the man hadn’t been bluffing; Ryan’s seen some serious skaters roll down steeper hills, and the man claims to have known what he was doing. From what little Ryan knows of inline skates, they were equipped for rougher terrains, but with almost zero breaking tools, save for the skills of the skater themselves.
“Sorry, man,” Ryan apologizes, ashamed.
The stranger sighs, exasperated. “It’s fine, dude, you probably meant well. It’s what I would’ve half-assumed the same thing.”
“Right,” Ryan picks himself up into a sitting position, dusting the wet dirt off of his jeans, thanks the Lord up above that he’d decided against taking his pads off until he’d found somewhere to sit. The stranger had begun unbuckling the ties of his skates, possibly to inspect damage, on both it and himself.
“You ok, though, bro?”
“Yeah.” The skater whistles, rubbing his ankles. Besides the scrapes, he doesn’t seem to have hurt or broken much else. “Ankles hurt like a bitch, though, so I’ll probably be better off holding off on the skating for a bit after. My skates’ seen worse. She’ll live.” He sighs. “Figures this was gonna happen, it’s been a shitty week.”
Ryan raises his eyebrows, curious. “Yeah, you wanna talk about it?”
The man looks at him, surprised, and a bit skeptical. “You askin’ me out on a date, there, skater boy?”
His tone is light, bellied with a chuckle, but now that Ryan’s looking, he can’t stop looking.
The man didn’t seem conventionally attractive; more so as if someone took a bunch of conventionally attractive features and tried to pair them all together. His chin was crooked endearingly, and his nose long and sharp. His sleepy eyes, crunched in somber humor, pinches corners into a bloom of crow’s feet, and they seem to twinkle under the heavy clouds that hang above them. His skin a patchy white, splattered with wet dirt and red raw. The man turns to face him, and the smile at Ryan’s continued silence seems to be the glue to tie them all together.
“As an apology, if you’d let me,” Ryan answers, belatedly, and the other man laughs.
“Hell of a meet-cute,” he says.
“Ryan,” he stuck his hand about, for a shake. “Bergara.”
The man clasps it in return, a firm grip and long, bony fingers, and starts to pull them both up, his skates carried in his other hand.
“Shane Madej,” Shane says. “And I wouldn’t say no to some coffee,”