May 3, 2010
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He put on the light blue tie, fastened it tightly around his neck, pulling it left and right, left then right, centering it on his shirt. He pulled up the left cuff of his shirt, making sure the sides were even, straight, unwrinkled. Then he moved onto his right cuff, pulling it, straightening it, unwrinkling it. He took one last look into the mirror, stared at the reflection, straightened his tie, turned around and left.

He touched the pen onto the paper, shifted the tip to the left, then down, writing, but nothing came out. The paper remained white. He shook the pen and put it back down, shifted it, and stared helplessly at the white 8.5x12 rectangle, unable to comprehend its ability to disobey. He laid down the pen, lightly, on the light wood of the desk, so that it hardly made a sound, and picked up another. He uncapped it, and placed the cap on the desk, shifted it, making it straight, aligned. He put the pen down and stroked, and words flowed out, came onto the paper, and created sentences, thoughts. He smiled.

He felt his eyebrows rise, wrinkles form on his forehead. His teeth came apart and his jaw would have been slightly opened, except that his lips stayed pursed, intent. He concentrated on the letters, the words, the thoughts that he was giving to the world, writing each character so that the bottom came to the base line, and the top of the letter just skimmed the line above, each conforming with the last. It was beautiful, and he couldn’t help but to smile, and to keep writing, and he couldn’t stop writing until it was all out, out onto this white peace of paper, that was quickly becoming filled, and he couldn’t stop.

It was October, the month when the leaves on the trees began to turn red and yellow, coming together to form a sort of disjointed orange. The morning air had a bite to it, nipping at the lips, fingers and ears of all the residents in the small town. The night came quickly, chasing away the day in order to fill the sky with a pocketful of stars, small spots of light in the sky. But what Tim loved best, what he anticipated every year, waited for, beckoned to come, was the lake. The lake was there all year, of course. But in October the wind would pick up, bite at the people, rip at the leaves. It would disconnect the already-dying leaves from their source, pushing them across the air, allowing them to drift, to dance, to land lightly, with hardly a sound, on the lake’s surface. It was silent, yes, but the water was sensitive, and the lightest touch would disgruntle it, sending ripples across its face.

So the effect was a beautifully disordered mess of red and yellow and clear, of smoothness and round ripples and silence. Tim would sit for hours, on the grass surrounding the lake, staring at the water, the leaves, the wind. It would bite at him, pull at his skin. And he would imagine that he was a tree, that he was being ripped at, torn at, that he created the beauty that was October.

He closed his eyes and imagined he was a leaf, first a red one, then a yellow one, being carried by the wind, coming slowly up, and just as quickly down, then up. And then down. Down into the lake, lightly, where it was cradled by the accommodating water. It rippled, or rather, created ripples, as though to replace the sound it could not make. And there it would lie, still, floating among its clan for hours, days, even weeks sometimes, until the wind would blow it to the far end of the lake, and it would be banked. And it would run into other leaves, red and yellow. And together, they would form a sort of disjointed orange.

Tim felt almost sad, really, seeing the beached leaves. But he knew it was necessary, in order to make room for the new, more recently fallen leaves. So that they, too, could fall silently onto the water. He opened his eyes and watched them, watched their grace and beauty and the ease through which they made their slow, steady, curving journey down to the clear water. He closed his eyes and breathed in, feeling the cold, hungry wind in his nostrils as he took in October. He imagined what it would be like, to touch the water, to lay on it. Tim had never been in the lake. He could not swim. Maybe, he thought, that was why he loved it so much.

He imagined being on it, and floating on it. He pondered how it would feel to have his every inch caressed by its cold embrace. He wondered what it would feel like, to be lighter than air itself, to float.

Everyday for one month Tim would do this. And everyday his questions would go unanswered. But Tim liked that. It created the mystery, the excitement behind it all. And then one day he became so excited, by the cold that bit at his skin and the wind that ripped at his body, that the wonderment became almost too much. He really did want to know how the water’s touch would feel, what it would be like to lie, flat, on a clear nothingness. He stared at the water, doubtful, for Tim could not swim. He imagined himself floating, weightless, like an angel, and wondered what it would feel like. Tim looked down at his hands, his hands that trembled from the bite of the cold and the tear of the wind, and noticed that they were unbuttoning his shirt. He watched them, nervous, as they moved behind his back and let their sleeves fall down, exposing his upper half to October. He hesitated. But oh how he wanted to be a leaf! He stood, shaking, and walked to the water, entranced by its glimmer, hypnotized by its call.

Tim stumbled but did not stop, he was only seven, four, two feet away. One foot away. But he did not stop. Tim took a breath and held it, as though his skin would not be able to function without oxygen while in the grasp of the lake. And he walked forward. His legs became cold, and he could feel goosebumps rising. His legs became numb, so that Tim could no longer feel them. He could no longer control them. They carried him further into the water. Tim looked down at his feet, unable to figure out why they would not stop walking. He looked at the water, at its unoxygenated depths, at the leaves that floated above it, that would know he didn’t belong and push him away, and the only place to go was down.

Within a few seconds Tim was no longer walking, but swimming. And his legs carried him into the lake, further and further, acting upon their own accord, calling out to the red and the yellow and the clearness. Tim said no, but his body would not listen. He was in the lake now, surrounded by dead leaves. He could see them come toward him as his hands pushed water down in an attempt to stay up. They were converging on him, surrounding him and snuffing out his space. Tim said no but his limbs would not take him from the water, and so he watched the leaves as they swam up to his skin and tickled his goosebumps and converged on him, snuffing out his air.

And then, as Tim began to feel the weight of his pants and his socks and his shoes, the limitations of his muscles, his head sunk lower. Lower and lower it went until it was barely above the water. And then it wasn’t. Tim breathed in an attempt to take in oxygen, but the leaves had snuffed out all his air. Water rushed in his lungs, filled his pores. He could not think, could not move.

He could not feel his legs, nor his arms. So he did not know that they, having had enough of this foolery, were clawing through the clear water, silently dragging him to shore. And then he felt land, and his legs were walking and soon there was no more water, except for the water that weighed down his clothes, but that didn’t count because it didn’t steal his oxygen. He moved to his shirt and buttoned it up. He adjusted the collar and pulled back the cuff links, adjusted them, unwrinkled them as water from his skin seeped into them. He walked away, left the river and its leaves and its wind.

He looked at the paper, covered with ink. He loved it, loved that it was out for the world to see, to understand. He loved that he had gotten it out, that it would no longer be only his secret to keep. He felt an excitement, a rush as he placed the pen down lightly, straightened it, and he began to lose notice of his hands. And so he was completely surprised to look down and see that they had gripped the paper, and they had gripped a lighter, his lighter, and that they were holding the lighter up to the paper. He tried to stop them but they were out of his control. His right hand pulled down and a flame erupted, and the fire stole the oxygen as it ate at his story, consumed it. And then all that was left was nothing, the neatly written letters gone from this world, the white paper in ashes.

He cringed, he thought it would be different this time but it wasn’t, it never was. He stood up, straightened his tie and unwrinkled his cuff links. Then he turned around and walked, walked out of the room.

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