By Nathan Klayman – Sundown United // Dallas
It’s fall. A time for trees to shed, and for the wind to skirt the fallen leaves around on walks to school. A time for pumpkins, and warmer clothes – the newness of the school year’s start has yet to lose its shiny new feeling. It’s cooler, but not actually cold; winter is still waiting in the wings. It’s autumn, and it feels like anything could happen. Outside, it’s fall, and I think:
It’s fall, and I am fourteen, and wondering what high school will be like – will I make any friends? Will I belong? Now that it’s high school, will I feel any different, BE any different? These are things that I think about, as I rake the leaves outside my father’s house, not yet realizing that, while this is hardly the last autumn I’ll ever see, it’s the last one I will spend here in this house, let alone rake the leaves falling outside.
It’s fall – I am now seventeen, and I live with my mother. Outside, the wind pastes leaves to my windows, perhaps hoping that I will be entertained by the colors. But to me now, autumn is more ragged jeans, a pair of scuffed Doc Martens, and clove cigarettes, shared with others in hopes of further friendship. It’s pretending to be older, and hoping that the clubs let me in, or rather, sneak in – the way you sometimes do, late at night. Coming over just to talk, or take me out to drink coffee, making like we know something about everything. You spend time with me, make me feel like I am someone; you scribble silly things on the toes of my shoes, and look at me like there’s nobody you’d rather be around. Both of us know though, that for a girl like you, your kisses are meant for someone other than me, and that I will only ever dream about them.
It’s fall – twenty-four, and by now, I think I know something, or at least I am being paid like I do. I sit in front of where I work, smoking, and wondering if this is all there is, all that there will be – work, and wondering. The leaves crunch under the wheels of my car as I drive away; going home, I drive past the houses I used to live in, and try to imagine the people that live there now: do they have a son like me, who rakes leaves in the yard? Have the words that you wrote on the sill (the one by my old room) been puzzled over, before being painted over? I see no people, so it’s only leaves and imagination on the drive home.
And now, it’s fall again (almost) – I am now nearly forty. Older, presumably wiser, and a parent, though I have yet to insist that my son rake the leaves that have yet to collect, but undoubtedly will. I wonder – what sort of memories does he have with fall? Does he think of leaves, pumpkins, and friends? School, and what comes with school? Or does he think of different things altogether? Sometimes, I think I should ask. Other times, I think it better not to, and that he’d tell me if he wanted me to know.
Sometimes, I think of you – I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. It used to be that I’d see the empty trees, smell the burning leaves, and I’d feel as bare as the trees against a night that comes faster, as though grown tired of the sky. I’d wonder where you were, and why it never was the way I’d hoped, that I’d dreamed, and that I had wished, and wished, and wished. But that was how I used to be – now, I think back to then, and wherever it is that you are now. Not so that I could tell you of how I wished things had gone, but rather, of where they are now. If the leaves outside could travel the world, I would tell them in hopes that perhaps they would find their way to where you have gone, and tell you – the places I’ve gone, the things I’ve seen and done.
Maybe I should tell the leaves. After all, it’s fall – anything could happen.