The fall comes too soon and leaves too early

A woman standing on the sidewalk is looking down at a dropped bottle of wine, holding a small paper bag torn on the bottom. Its red juice oozes out like blood onto the pavement and between the cracks of the shattered bronze glass. She holds the bag in her hand, frozen in a loss for what to do next. Two little girls peddling on a bicycle and tricycle are approaching, and a passerby's voice says "Oh my" and adds "be careful, glass up ahead!" People can be so cruel to one another, but sometimes little warning signs like these restore my faith in humanity.

Sitting on the balcony, the air smells of the earth and the dying of things. This summer was so peacefully quiet that I've been trying to ignore its departure, turning away from the leaves changing colors, in denial of summer's end. I cannot help noticing the pile of orange leaves pushed against the street gutters, how they dry and crackle with the slightest stir. On a walk through the woods one weekend, sitting on the edge of a cold stone bench atop a romantic lookout spot, I see red and orange leaves up high on the tips of trees and sigh a deep sigh. The colors are breathtaking and I feel as though an iron gate in my chest had drawn open.

On my back at the pond, I look up at the infinite blue and the way sunlight touches the trees. A fisher flies across, swift as a knife cutting through, followed by a hawk making a quick turn, and then a goose flapping his wings in the most ungainly way in comparison to the graceful bird preceding him. I close my eyes and watch the flashes of light dance on my eyelids, every time I follow a spot it moves away. A live band begins to play across the water, soft drumming and saxophone, smooth 80s pop, I think. I sit up and watch people walking past come to the shore to listen to the music and cheer, and then they clap in unison with a group on the other side. I begin to feel cold and lie there for a moment more to listen to the end of the last song and the drumming in my chest. 

I'm biking to the office on a foggy and warm day, and when I get there, talk to more than the usual share of people. "Let's come in" I say, leading the conversation away from the elevators. Despite the masks on our faces, eyes have become more honest than ever. When someone is truly smiling, they wrinkle and look as though someone who has come alive is shining a flashlight behind them as if to say "I'm here! You can see me, I can't believe you can see me!" 

On the way home, I see a white goose among the wild ones. The theory is, someone abandoned a domestic egg, and the wild geese adopted the hatched bird. There is another theory, the goose hatched on a farm and flew to freedom. There is one more theory, someone got tired of their pet goose and left him there. Either way, the wild geese adopted him and can't tell the difference.

I'm standing across the street, observing the view in two windows in the same building, one floor above and below. Both have a television setup on the same wall, tuned to the same channel at the exact same moment. I think it is a reflection at first, but no. A silhouette meanders in both, unaware of each other's togetherness in the same aloneness. 

At the register in the grocery store, I watch the cashier through the glass partition as he slides one item after the other over the scanner. He slides the greeting cards and keeps holding them in the other hand, fanning them out and looking at them for longer than necessary. A birthday, floral arrangements, funny birds, and one because I like the texture of the paper. Is he connecting all the parts to make a whole story? I wonder, but he asks if I want to hold onto them instead of placing them in the bag. "Yes" I say, "thank you."

Then at the library, I am asked to speak a little louder when I ask the librarian behind another glass partition why one of my books is marked overdue even though I returned it a week ago. Apparently, books go to quarantine too.

While standing up on a ladder in the kitchen and examining the ceiling, I'm listening to a memoir by Lyudmilla Petrushevskaya and have to climb down immediately to bookmark an interesting place. There are two kinds of people who go to theaters, she says, the kind who go to forget and the kind who go to remember. I am the latter. 

The radiators have started to rattle in the early mornings, the valves clatter and clank as the steam rises up the pipes that sounds like someone is communicating in Morse code from the depths of the basement. It gets darker much quicker now, days are getting shorter, and I'm already falling asleep an hour early. I've made myself a ritual out of writing something every day, capturing the present as it happens. My journal is full of writing in present tense and a handful of honey locust leaves. I have only a few empty pages left, and pick up blank notebooks from the bookshelf to flip through them and imagine the life they could live. I can't decide which one I want to write next.


  1. I go to the theater to remember as well.

    And somehow this is the first time in a long time when my bookshelf is not full of empty notebooks waiting to be filled.

    1. Thank you for sharing.

      I hope that means you have filled most of those empty notebooks. I have a bookshelf of empty ones because I obsessively collected my favorite ones.



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