Green leaves, givers of oxygen, begin to change colours transform to velvety rusts, golds, auburns, maroons; colours of dying. Though there is exquisite beauty in their death.
Some cling to their last known resting place, trembling, quivering in their final spot, slight undulations with breeze’s breath. Until they can hold on no longer, liberated, they dance in a gust, spinning, spiralling in air, skittering to earth in sun, warm and syrup-like. This brings delight for children, the dying swan song of the leaves. The death of summer in the air.
Now, it rains. Dark autumn days, the leaves blacken, colours stolen. Plastered on the ground, too heavy to fly free any longer. Mildewing and losing their crisp voices, as decomposition silences them, robbing them of their elegant beauty. They settle in the soil to rest, and wait, to begin their next journey.
An uncomfortable vacation with my mother; she’s irritable, and so embarrassing. Everything’s a drama for her. I’m sixteen – why did I come? Why? It’s spring break in Florida. Too good to miss, so I thought. I spent yesterday in the sea, at one with the waves and the salt, and my thoughts adrift on the water. Today, red hot, crispy skin covers my shoulders. Back at the beach, I cover my burnt flesh with a baggy, summer sweater, in teal green, worn gently over my swimsuit, inside-out, protecting my parched skin from seams. The sunburn hurts, and I’m aware of my fishbelly-white legs self-conscious, surrounded by golden Coppertone bodies. It’s so hot, I feel unwell, and need a break from the sun. From my mother, and from the sun. Space and quiet.
“I’m going to look at the gift stores.” My mother hates shopping; I leave her there on the sand, scowling and wiping her sweaty face. She hates beaches too. Reaching the roadside, I wait for a pick-up truck to pass. A blond boy, older than me, rides in the back barechested. Laughing, he shouts out two words: “You’re fat!” And time stops. I’m fat. He has told the world in a moment of hate. Everybody knows now, and despises me for it. In reality, I’m not. I am not fat, or overweight. But my true size doesn’t even matter anymore. Cataclysmically lasting damage has been done. The seed is planted in fresh, damp fertile soil. He couldn’t know, but I loathe my body already. Every damned piece of it, in all ways unimaginable. His declaration, “You’re fat!” adds to a growing arsenal of ammunition, the suite of weaponry that starts a war. Assailing a healthy body which would endure much harm.
Many years later, I will question whether he even meant me? I convinced myself he did, an accusation I did not challenge. He wasn’t there when I ripped up my school photograph, consumed in a rage of fury, certain I was the ugliest girl alive. He did not know how I wished to melt my freckles away with acid and yank out the wretched cowlicks in my wildly tangled hair. He never found out I already thought I was fatter than fat. Years have elapsed since I stood at the roadside, in a flowy, soft cotton sweater, nursing sunburn. Years have elapsed since I later stopped eating, almost starving myself to death. Yet I still remember that taunt and sometimes, it still stings.