The crunch of leaves underfoot is always the worst. When the first sign of color highlights the trees, it is celebrated. They then turn brown and are shredded from the passage of too many feet. It makes me want to preserve them when their colors are still fresh. I always used to like dipping them in paraffin wax when I was a kid, especially when I got to dunk my hand in there until the wax would harden around my fingers.
I light a cigarette. Fall wouldn’t be so bad if I had someone to share it with. We could get hot cider, and go on long walks in the woods, then return home to sit by the fire, drinking wine to celebrate that we have each other. Or rake leaves into a pile so that our kids could jump in them while our dog runs around the white-fenced yard. That wouldn’t be so bad.
Instead, the only thing that embraces me is the stale scent of too many smokes and the occasional pang of loneliness. Blowing on my gloved hands, I decide to get some cider. If I can’t keep someone else’s hands warm this season, at least I can warm my own. With fall and the weather getting colder comes the nagging desire to find a mate. By winter I’m shivering my skinny ass off and cursing myself for being alone, instead of having someone in my arms while the first heavy snowfall falls gently outside the window. I curse myself for not having the guts to ask that certain someone out, and instead pretending I was okay with being just friends. Worse, I curse them for not showing up, except for in my imagination. What if I will always be alone? I don’t know how many recurrences I can take of being alone as it gets cold outside.
As I walk the streets unacknowledged, unnoticed, I find myself imagining being the other half to a solid unit. It’s nothing new for people to ignore me I’m pretty average. Plain hair, plain eyes, plain face. I watch the pretty wife with shoulder length blonde hair and blue eyes, holding the hand of her blue eyed, blonde haired son. That’s one hell of a rock on the hand that’s holding her little boy’s, someone must really love her.
I could be the guy who can always be counted on, to pick up his family after a long day of work. Hey honey, how was your day? Hey kid, how was school? My days would be complete just to welcome them home. The guy who picked out that perfect ring, for his perfect wife.
But I am no one’s other half. Cigarettes, a decent job, and a dingy apartment are all I have, along with the colors of leaves in fall as a reminder that I am alone. Maybe I’ll get a dog, they’re always there to welcome you as long as you feed them.
(Inspired by The Stranger by Albert Camus).