A Leaf Brushes Past my Cheek...

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A leaf brushes past my cheek, and I close my eyes, inhaling the crisp, musky air. The trees around me are silent in their red-gold rest, and the ground beneath my bare feet is just starting to harden in the colder weather. The scattered leaves cushion my arms and legs as I curl up against a smoky-barked maple tree, and amidst the silence I feel at peace, as if the whole world is starting to fall asleep.

A soft footstep breaks the silence, and I ignore it, thinking that a solitary deer is in the trees close by. Minutes pass, and footsteps approach the comforting tree against which I am curled, eyes closed. I wait until the footsteps grow loud enough to be distinguishable, and I realize with surprise that deer don’t walk two steps at a time, or pause after one small step, for that matter.

Amazed that someone could have found me here in my place of solitude and sanctuary, of my temple of growth and solace and change, I open my eyes slightly to see the figure belonging to the phantom footsteps.

At first I cannot see anything; the sun shines through the trees and misty air directly behind the figure, the atmosphere transformed into a slow swirl of red and gold light. As my eyes adjust to the strange surreality of the moment, I feel my eyes pulled into a steady gaze, though I can hardly see the face into which I am staring. My fingers clench on the cold ground, and I huddle closer to the tree, apprehensive. A few seconds pass, and the figure turns. At once I start to breathe—I hadn’t even noticed that I’d stopped. My heart seems to pound a hole in my aching chest, and I feel like something is being ripped away, like an anchor torn from a ship lost at sea.

However, the figure turns only to sit on the other side of the tree, where I can see nothing but its shadow. I close my eyes again, hoping to slip back into the still, dreamlike state that I had enjoyed for the past million moments before my interruption. Soon though, I begin to feel aware, as I had never felt before. Aware of the breeze that I never knew was there, the soft caress of the wind across my bare skin. Aware of the warmth of the sun on my shoulders, on my hair, aware also of the softness of the earth beneath my body. I open my eyes in wonder, and after a moment glance around to where I remembered the figure’s shadow to be.

It isn’t there.

A touch on my shoulder startles me, but when I look to find the culprit I see nothing but golden swirls of dust motes in the air. Shaken, but strangely unafraid, I close my eyes again, this time waiting for something.

A familiar footfall echoes next to me, but I do not open my eyes. I feel a body sit at the base of my tree, and silence once again fills the forest around me. The wind tosses my hair, and I swat it away lazily, slowly opening my eyes. The figure is sitting not more than a stride away from me, and it calmly folds its arms back behind its head, looking in reverence at the sky through the rustic foliage. I realize, slowly as if in a dream, that this figure is like the tree that we both use as a resting place, like the ground beneath me, and like the leaves that reach up to the sky for sun; he, for it is a he, I come to see, is…right. Even in my place, my hallowed forest, this figure utterly belonged.

Softly, looking up through the leaves as he does, I whisper –hold me.—
Not sure that he has heard, I glance down at the ground, suddenly acutely aware of every part of my body that is touching the earth and air directly. I feel that same touch on my shoulder again, an electric jolt that shoots through my every cell, and this time I look properly straight into eyes of safety, of trust, of such depth that I once again find myself at a loss for breath. I close my eyes, not sure how much I can bear, not sure how much I can accept the fact that someone had just looked at me in such a way. Without thinking, I lean into his arms, resting my head on his shoulder and chest. I feel so fragile, so weak, and everything about him is safety, is protection, and love.

Every inch of me is on fire, every inch of me is so intensely aware of everything that touches me that I cannot relax. The breeze mingles with his breath and mine, as I start to breathe again. We breathe as one, our heartbeats mingle as a delicate interweaving pattern, and for once, for once I feel as if I can share this place of solitude with him, as long as he will hold me like this, make me feel like this. As long as he will stay with me, to watch the seasons change, to feel the air, the earth, the trees all around us. As long…as long as he will look at me that way…

I need him to be there.





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