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There was no one in the garden when the middle-aged man arrived. It was the morning after yet another sleepless night for him; he’d stayed in his apartment until sunrise before deciding that he needed to seek refuge in nature’s beauty to combat his chronic fatigue.

It was a bright Saturday morning; the sun was glinting off the dew-laden leaves of scattered oak trees. This garden used to be rife with trees and lush greenery, but a council decision three years ago to go forth with a razing movement took its toll on majority of the mantling foliage.

The middle-aged man bent down, squinting at a fallen elm-flower on the dirt beneath him. This elm-flower had long lost its soothing yellow-purple tint, almost as if it had transmuted into an amorphous cloud of dust; here today, gone tomorrow. The man cradled this crushed elm-flower in his hands as if it were his own child, and wept.

He remembered the last time he’d been to a garden in the morning. The memories – relegated to the corner of his mind after years of hustle-and-bustle and relentless, aimless toil – incited his nostalgic sentiments, captivating him like an album of black-and-white snapshots from times past. A senior in college, in those days he was not roused from deep sleep by the cacophonous din of his alarm clock, but awakened by the gentle, roseate hues of early dawn that shafted through his windows. It was September, autumn in its infancy, the time of the year marked by rigid dichotomies of growth and decline.

He thought about the preponderance of trees that day, in their variegated shades of orange; recalled the blooming lavenders, aromatic buffers that cushioned him from the pressures of student life and opened his senses with tranquil accord; reminisced about the susurrus of the soothing September wind and the melodious harmonies of the birds; missed the autumnal freshness that beckoned him not to be anxious over anything, be it his economics final that afternoon or the life he would have to rebuild after graduation.

Strolling around the college yard, eyes directed towards the boundless sky, he smiled with dawning recognition as he meditated that this absence of worrying, this moment of inner peace, this intoxicating bliss, all of this… this was what it meant to be alive.

“Hello, hello… wow, he’s lost it. We’ve been throwing grass at him for over half an hour.”

“Shush… I think he’s hung-over.”

It was as if the muscles on his face were palsied. He should not have gone bar-hopping last night but then again, it was a last resort, a haphazard move to feel the reckless thrill of… he could not put words to the intangible feeling that he’d tried so hard to feel last night. He should have relied on Experience, the wise dictator, to understand that tequila shots could never stop the dull ache of real life. The adrenaline, coursing violently through his veins last night, could only satisfy him for so short a time. Still bent down, he tossed the flower on the ground and regretted his actions as soon as he saw a tourist throwing the remnants of his lit cigarette right by the dusty elm-flower.

The garden was fraught with people when the middle-aged man left. Once he stood up, he noticed families picnicking on newly-erected, blow-molded plastic tables, replete with crumpled red umbrellas, strollers for their children, and checkered picnic cloths. He wished that the trees weren't razed. They provided a comforting barrier to the menacing maze of automobiles that would meet his eyes once he left the garden. Now all that remained were the sinister shadows, rectangular in shape, of construction projects and future high-rise apartments, crude substitutes of the verdant vegetation that once abounded with life.

He wished that the trees weren't razed. The garden – this metropolis – would be more beautiful if they weren't.




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