A man processes his grief.
|I didn’t expect to be back on that bench again. Not so soon, at least. Five o’clock, like always. Getting dark, unlike always. We never did this in the winter months.
The park. That cold, welcoming circle of paved stone surrounded by knee-height yew hedges, themselves surrounded in ankle-height tarnished fences, separated into four parts by outreaching paths. The tiny goldfish pond in the center, frozen and barren. The eight benches, and the one we’d sit on together. Everything’s here.
The crisp November air flicks my nose, and I open the brown paper bag that’s been seated beside me. A turkey sandwich, a normal lunch, a fine lunch. I raised it to my mouth, but I couldn’t bite into it. I hesitated, and set it back down on my lap. Only one bag, only one sandwich, and no leaves on the trees all around.
It was so vibrant and green in the summer. It wasn’t very long ago, not at all, but the leaves withered as they always do when their time comes. I remember as a child pointing out how the colors had changed, gave the leaves different names, it felt so exciting back then to watch them transform, just as much for her, but it wasn’t the leaves she was watching.
That, that was long ago, but my adoration of the foliage never left. I wish I could say I fully appreciated the leaves when they were here, but you don’t fear the transformations as a child, you don’t savor it all. How the oak trees around the park swayed, their leaves dancing and rustling in the wind, almost mimicking her laugh as I danced with them. Just like my father.
She savored the leaves, I know she did. She did her best to. She would watch them grow, watch them burst forth into color, then shrivel away for the next generation.
I’m grateful that she hasn’t seen how my pigments have faded, in spite of its cause. I am content in her remembering me in my best form, radiant in the sunlight with my head held high, my eyes to the horizon. Taking pride in the man her own child had raised.
I should have savored the leaves. The wind still blows through this park, those branches, but the air is silent. There is no more rustling, no more dancing.
I don’t bother to want to go back, it’s futile. There’s no way I can. I can only remember the beautiful greens of the oak leaves, the blue of her eyes that she gave to me. The rustling orchestra in the wind, the sound of her voice.
The leaves always wither, their time always comes. But the wind brushes my hand, and for the first time since summer it feels warm. I smile, raise my head and have my sandwich. I have not withered yet.