Weary of summers past and wary of the winter to come – Autumn is a gaunt, worn veteran, hunched over on public benches. He sits with pursed lips, silently mouthing the ending of every story that begins now. As the harsh, dry wind claws the leaves off the trees, the park looks more and more like an arboreal cemetery.
As he walks, the trees wither away – into leathery remains that will feed their future. Animals will hibernate to avoid the approaching winter, lulling their bodies with metabolic opium. He knows they will emerge months later, infants cocooned in a snow-caked Earth, ready for another try at love.
Settling into a comfortable stride is difficult with a bad knee. But having no one to lean on makes it much harder. The veteran of these parks was once a veteran of war, and he knows which feels worse.
A cogent rage now drives his step. An inward, clarifying anger at the follies of youth. Of arguments and grudges that seem to be the only children he will ever nurture. Having sewn their way into the heart, they beat furiously to remind him of their presence.
He thinks of Marie and remembers staring into her once-blue eyes, now cloudy puddles of age and pain. He wants to say goodbye, not to her, but to the memories. He knows he would give anything to see her anew, but the very thought brings up memories of their first encounter.
Creaking knees and a lumbering gait push one foot in front of the other. Momentum is analgesic, and he wants nothing more at this moment. Young people are unaware of it, but one learns to disconnect from the body with age.
He knows what is on the way. It may take a few months, perhaps a few years, but Mother Death is coming for him. He thinks he will live on as a spirit. A poltergeist of sorts, haunting empty spots where he can watch the seasons. He’ll never admit it, but he’s excited to find out.
Autumn is a time for seasoned relationships. A period when one is not bound by the hormonal effervescence of spring; or by the natural needs of the coming winter. A time of reflection – on life and love. As the trees shed and the colors fade, life gives up the biochemical pretence that early adulthood inspires—reminding us of our similarities and the brittle deadwood at the centre of our hearts. We’re all visible for the briefest moment – before learning to hide our cuprous truth.
A figure makes her way around the gentle curves of the walkway, breaking his train of thought. She looks up at the path around the turn, and he looks up at her. As his eyes catch the light that few can radiate, he thinks he’s found the one again. But the feeling is drowned over by fear and fealty. He’ll always think Marie is right around the corner. But for now, he can’t see her.
It will be odd if this goes on for a few more seconds. But for some reason, neither of them looks away. He isn’t quite sure what she’s seeing. He knows what he is. If she had stopped after a few seconds, he would know exactly what had gone wrong. But this is confusing.
The setting sun revolves around them as its rays drape the park. In the light, her eyes go from green to orange to red to yellow in seconds.
Will you be there when I change?
Of course, I will.
Hues to say fall isn’t beautiful?
He has not been in this place for years. Of course, he’s walked this concrete strip a thousand times over. But he’s beginning to realize that places are people. When a tree falls over in a forest, and no one’s around to hear it, everybody deserves somebody to tell them that it doesn’t matter.
They wish the moment would last a bit longer. But forever means nothing to them anymore. Neither can live love fully now, as the past has left its mark – though the future is beckoning.
Is it okay if I see somebody else in you?
Do you mean yourself?
That’s awfully honest of you.
A lie for a lie leaves the whole world blind.
Spirits do live on – in other people. He’s a vessel of memories he never knew he had. There is a certain comfort to knowing that you have been loved before – that there was a story once.
And then she speaks – about a love that lasts till autumn and settles into a comfortable serenity. About two people slowly set into stone, deciding to crystallize together.
Too many firsts.
Too few lasts?
Too few last.
You’re not wrong.
Alas, a last
That lasts, at last.
Written by Arjun Khade for MTTN
Artwork by Yatee Samantaray for MTTN
Edited by Aditi Atreya for MTTN
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