Autumn This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

November 4, 2012
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The sky is a placid dove gray. Teasing winds blow my hair away and back again and a mist of rain obscures my view.
The corpses of fallen leaves litter the ground. Their struggling compatriots flail miserably, all too knowing of their coming death.
It is once again, autumn.
I scrape my boots against the wet cement. I have a few more hours of peace and quiet before my mother returns from work. I don’t know why I choose to spend the time outside, but I do.
There is not a soul in the streets.
This is one of those autumn days when you feel thankful that you have a hearth and home and a roof overhead.
These kinds of days are the loneliest. You walk in the road, and there’s no one. No cars, no one talking, no footsteps.
Only the soft shush of leaves as they hit the ground, and the relentless battering of the rain.
The feeling of loneliness creeps up on you, then suddenly, in a wave, erupts inside of you and pulls you down.
And then you feel so alone, so alone. Alone, like you’re the only one left, the last one of them all. Only you.

I should be glad of the solitude. All day, it’s bright lights, bright screens, bright faces. It all overwhelms me, but I pretend to be happy and I smile along with the rest of them.
He’s the only one I genuinely smile for, and then it comes so naturally: the corners of my lips lift up, my eyes shine; and inside, a glowing light reaches out.
It’s strange how life works sometimes: he lives right in my slice of the city, right in one of those small leaf covered complexes that line the blocks further down.
It’s no use wondering about him though, because tomorrow is a professional development day, an unaccounted for holiday.

I pass by a construction site, abandoned because of the storm. Rough ragged stones which were once the proud foundations of a home have been ripped away from the earth and scattered throughout the yard. A mechanical claw rests in a corner, plotting it’s devious schemes for tomorrow. A sodden piece of wood substitutes as a temporary gate.
I focus on the wooden gate, brushing my fingers on the frayed edges. The grainy wood is a tangerine color, a vibrant warm color. If I look at the gate and nothing else, I am reminded of sun filled days at the beach, beads of sand swarming over my toes. This couldn't be further from the truth: the wood is a damp, chilly ,emotionless board; something that will be forgotten and thrown away as soon as the construction is finished.
There is a faint powder of sanded wood on my fingertips as I walk away slowly.

The time passes, marked only by the thumps of my boots on the puddle infested roads.
I hardly notice, because it is all the same.
Roads and roads of houses cross my view. They all have a lawn, a few bushes here and there. Their windows all have curtains and there are lights beside the door. The leaves continue to fall, the clouds continue to cry.
Slowly, the regulated houses morph into small complexes and townhouses.
The large porches give way to double doorways for the two family homes. The lawns shrink in size until there are none left at all except the few miserable patches of grass that lie uncared for in the alleys.
This is the newer part of my area although you wouldn't be able to tell with all the rain. This is where all the young families thrive, the ones with the small children and the strollers parked on the sidewalk.
This is where you’d go if you went trick or treating on Halloween.
The townhouses are pushed together and the walls are thin. From outside, you can hear and see the people inside arguing, or singing, or whatever people do on a day like this. It almost seems like a scripted play from the other side of the window, where I stand.

This is where he lives. Somehow my loyal feet have led me here, after all the wandering.
His home is just another nondescript plot of gray, another townhouse like the others, in another complex like the others, in another tree lined street. A pink tricycle lies on it’s side where his little sister had given up on it a few hours before.
It’s the only splash of color in this dismal scene, save for the dingy bushs that his family had tried to nurse.
His tiny abode faces another townhouse with the same shape and style. In fact, the only thing that distinguishes one from the other is the house address and the pink tricycle lying in the gutter.
I find it depressing.

There really is no point in lingering here: there clearly isn't anyone home. I trudge back the way I came; back along with the drifting leaves and the urging wind. By this time, the top layer of my hair is completely soaked despite the care I took in covering it.
A thin trickle of gutter rain is leaking through the soles of my once faithful, once trusty boots.
I wrinkle my nose in disgust, but walk on obstinately.
The sooner I return home, the sooner I can take off the wet squirming mess people call a raincoat.

As I turn the corner to my end of the district, hands in my pockets to keep warm, nose buried in a mass of scarf, I spot a familiar form in the distance.
It’s the same lanky shape that I've memorized unconsciously.
It’s the only one that I smile for, the only one who talks to me like we’re both humans and both on the same planet.
Somehow, fate has brought him here.
He’s running his left hand through his hair, holding the umbrella with the other hand.
He tilts his head ever so slightly and glimpses me, his lips break into an easy smile and so do mine.

I take his hand and pull him into our house. My mother won’t mind, she has known him since his birth.

I don’t shiver anymore,neither does he pace.
The autumn isn't so oppressing when you’re with someone you love.

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