Autumn6 mins 35.6K 6 mins 35.6K
The sunny afternoons were growing shorter. And the evenings seemed to stretch a bit longer than the previous days. The shed leaves from the trees above floated about like little bits of paper with the drifts of chill breeze that stirred the place every now and then. The different shades of green that still remained on the trees were slowly changing to yellow and golden brown; orange and grey. It seemed strange that fading colors could look so colorful. The slant sunrays of the evening felt warm on her cold wrinkled skin as she held on to the railings of their porch. Autumn had arrived.
That was a special day. She wore the white-dotted dress that he had gifted her once. It was actually off-white now but she still liked it anyways. And she loved to think that he would like to see her wearing it, that is, if he were seeing her. She had a thin shawl wrapped around her shoulders. These days even a mild breeze sent shivers down her fragile body. She slowly climbed down the steps holding on to the railing for support with one hand and her walking stick on the other. Each step she took felt like a tiresome exercise. When young she never thought that one’s own body could feel like that. Heavy. Difficult. Painful even. As if it just entrapped her being. Restricting what she would have liked to eat and drink, hindering her movements to go about where she wanted and limiting her from doing what she wished to do. This short distance from their porch to the pavement seemed to have drained her. She waited a while to catch a breath, leaning against her walking stick. Age has its own ways to make itself count, she thought, grimacing at the sharp pain rising in her chest. These days such pains had become more frequent with everything becoming an effort. Sometimes even breathing was an effort.
She was once a pretty girl, hopping around with boundless energy. Her body supple; her face pretty as ever. Time is a strange sculptor, she reflected. The skin that was once fair and firm, slacked. The spot where a dimple once formed when she smiled was buried in the many creases that crisscrossed her face. Sometimes the realization hurt; sometimes she just didn't care. Don’t worry about wrinkles, each line stands testimony to the smiles we have had in life, he’d say.
She began to walk again. Her back was towards the sun. It looked like a soft orange ball lying on the ground at the distant horizon. Its parting sunrays seemed to be caressing the golden leaves on the treetops. The breeze was a little chill. There weren’t many passers-by at the time. The place was almost desolate. She hobbled along and finally she was there. She smiled a little to herself. She had made it.
She walked up to the bench. Their bench. It is where they had spent many evenings together- sitting, talking, laughing and sometimes in solemn quietness just looking out into nowhere. She seated herself; the bench made a slight creaking sound. Her breathing had returned to normal. She could hear the birds roosting for the night. It was dusk. She often sat there for hours on end, oblivious to the slipping sands of time- her thoughts lingering on the things past; her unseeing eyes searching the horizon for memories long lost and gone. They had been together for so long that she found it hard to think of a memory that she hadn't shared with him. To her, time moved not in chunks; but flowed like a stream. Sometimes she felt as if she were watching a movie. All those shared memories floating by like a picture at play. They had shared so much that they didn’t realize when they stopped needing words to talk.
She dug her hand into her pocket and fished out an envelope. Her hands trembled as she opened it to retrieve the letter inside. There was a surge of emotions at play within her at the moment. It was a letter written long, long ago. The paper had turned yellowish, almost crumbling. She carefully adjusted her glasses, cleared her throat and held up the letter against the soft, fading sunrays. There was a faint hint of a shy smile playing on her lips as if she were about to make some sort of a speech before a grand audience, as if he were right there sitting beside her, with his rapt attention to whatever she was going to present. Slowly, steadily, she began to read.
You were a phantom of delight,
When you first gleamed upon my sight,
A lovely apparition sent,
To be my life’s ornament.
Be my life, be my love,
Let’s be together till the end of time!
Wish you a very happy birthday!
She remembered the time when she’d first heard him recite those lines to her. She was mightily impressed not just by the praise it showered, the emotions it conveyed but also by his poetic abilities, till one fine day she’d discovered how good he was at drawing an inspiration from the works of Wordsworth and making little adjustments to better suit his sentiments. She smiled at the thought of him. “Thank you”, she whispered softly.
She had sat still. Just a small droplet of tear rolled down her cheeks. She must have read that letter a thousand times. And every time it left her wondering if she should be happy that she lived on or should she be sad about it. Love is a mad thing, he’d say. True, she thought. Her breathing grew slow and heavy. The autumn breeze seemed to have injected a soft tiredness into her body. Her eyelids felt heavy. She turned to cast a listless glance at their house in the dim sunlight. It looked distant. She turned back to looking into nowhere. A sweet sleep beckoned her. Should she get back home or should she have a quick nap there, she considered. Things were starting to look blurred and just then she saw him, right there; right in front of her. Her eyes opened as wide as they could. It was him. He was there. He looked old, but happy. Just the way he always looked. He was smiling. She smiled back. “You came back”, her lips trembled. She staggered towards him; her hands stretched out to hold his. Just then, she felt her little granddaughter, Nancy nudging her. It’s grandpa. He’d come back. Look Nancy! She turned to look at Nancy. He gently placed his arm around her shoulders, let’s go.
The sun had almost set. It was the time of the day when light and darkness intertwined to create a strange bland of color; the kind that could be dusk or dawn. And in that light, she saw the little girl clung to an old woman, nudging her to wake up. An orange brown leaf had fallen from one of the trees above onto the unmoving fingers of a wrinkled hand holding a browned letter. It was the season of autumn. The autumn of her life.