She was already a dried leaf when they met and time did not improve her condition. He could not say how much time passed, the clock face showed no signs of change.
The wind brought them together on a cool autumn day, when the world smelled of rotting leaves, pumpkin pie, and just a hint of snow somewhere off in the distance. She drifted towards him on the breeze and he caught her in his arms. From that first touch he knew how delicate he must be with her, for fear she might crumble in the palms of his hands.
That fragility was nothing new. We all go through things in our lives and for some it strengthens them, the way a young tree strengthens itself standing against strong winds. However, some of us more closely resemble panes of glass, with each blow splintering and weakening us until eventually we shatter.
Though brittle, she was still mostly whole, with only a few fragments missing here and there. It was a she, he decided, or guessed really, she never did say. He cradled her in his arms and without daring to consider his actions he ran his finger lightly along frail skin. She felt like old paper. She said nothing in protest, and so he continued…
That was all too often how their relationship went – she said nothing, and so he continued on. He was happy, in a way, but realized that his joy stemmed from the lack of conflict – that one ever-present force, making life infinitely more interesting.
As with almost any absence, his heart grew fonder of old conflict and he craved it. No matter though, one would have better odds getting a wall to argue back, and the more he reflected upon it the more obvious the issue became. The thing that drew him to her –the mystery- was really nothing more than a complacent silence. He saw now how he’d made all the decisions and she’d just been carried along.
Seasons change though, and so does everything else. Her silence was fun, at first. He enjoyed being the focus of the spotlight for a change, feeling heard and feeling interesting. Whenever he asked her any personal questions, or even made a lame family tree joke, she always just held that blank look and wouldn’t say a thing. This was all cute and humorous until it wasn’t.
Women are like snowflakes, he came to realize, they may all have intricacies which define them as unique but in the end they’re all still snowflakes. They all melt and they all freeze.
After a time he grew to hate the sound of his own voice, droning on and on like a telephone ringing incessantly in an empty house. Eventually, after he got tired of all the games he resorted to screaming at the leaf, attempting to break through, his shouts causing her to shake. Once in a fit of rage and frustration he yelled that he didn’t even know what they were still fighting for, why he still held her when she shook. Still neither of them budged.
Then the winds shifted again.
He didn’t know if he’d just been waiting for the weather to change but decided that he needed to act, while he was still fortunate enough to have the wind at his back and the sun on his face. He began to cry then, understanding this was it. He lifted the leaf, pulling her close. As a tear splashed against the paper skin it fell into the groove of the spine and traced the same path his finger had upon their first meeting. He closed his eyes and kissed her and said the only things that would come to mind.
I’m sorry. I love you. Then he thought what a shame it was how often he’d said those two sentences together.
Then the breeze picked up and as he felt the wind pulling at her he forced himself to let go. As his grip on her slackened, the wind which had once delivered her to him carried her away just as easily. When he looked up she was gone and he was still in the same place. He could not say how much time had passed, the clock face showed no signs of change.
Winter would come first, but spring would surely follow.
Story was inspired by the short fiction of Etgar Keret and Haruki Murakami, as well as a large autumn leaf found near our home, which looked strangely out of place in the spring. Still have the crumbling thing and it’s still beautiful.