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In Autumn

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Leaves are falling like fire. Flickers of crimson, saffron, and amber wafting earthwards, whole golden groves unleaving. The world burns even as the temperatures cool, sweetly crisp around the edges. The tang of woodsmoke lingering in the night. Alex’s hair losing its summer tones of maple and oak and beginning to take on darker, winter ones, chestnut and mahogany. In the velvet darkness of early morning, you trip on Leo’s backpack.You still forget Leo’s backpack isn’t nestled away, as it had been all summer. After that, you sit and have coffee while the world wakes up.

Campus is brimful of students again. They whisk thither and hither, the cold air stinging their cheeks into little red apples. Emboldened by youth, girls run around in short-shorts and sundresses, trying to gather the last warm rays of the sun before all the trees are bare. The papers in your hand, which you carry from class to office, have the same texture as dead leaves, and almost, you can imagine, they smell musky and damp too. Even as you grade them, carefully and with a red pen since you ran through all the green ones a week ago.

The window to your office is open. Your dress-jacket is off, you’re in your vest and shirt, and you’ve rolled your sleeves up. The air comes through the window, agonizingly pure. The world is full of things sighing and dying. You think some kind of primal urge must grip us this time of year, as we bundle into our sweaters and hurry to the little campus cafe for a steaming latte. Some urge which wants to curl up next to the hearth and watch the fire dance and simply sit in the heat and beauty of that moment, warmed all the way down into the marrow.

You hum a little melody. It doesn’t matter what it is. It wafts through the room as you work. Tonight you will have roast, which Alex stuck in the crockpot this morning. You might have a few beers after Leo’s gone to bed, and you might, if you are both awake and energetic enough, have sex with Alex. The crisp air is full of promise.

You are the furthest you will ever be from winter’s day when all the leaves have been gone from the tree for months, when fire splits the sky and your world. You are the furthest you will ever be from that moment, when, shaking and disoriented, you take the Oath of Office. Furthest from that first night pacing on the patio, when you think to yourself: this must be a really cruel dream . You will tell yourself wake up! wake up! It won’t work.

Now is the dream, but you don’t know that. Now is the moment which you never trap in amber, because it’s just another day. A beautiful day, a glorious autumn day, but another day, nonetheless. The kind you will ache for, down into the marrow, in the future.

For now your papers are graded. You lock up your office, and go home. From above, leaves fall like fire.