I slid of the bench and watched him walk away. Not because he was worth watching – which he totally was – I just…watched. He was right about not worrying my dad, so I headed back to the hospital. Everything seemed the same, which I found confusing. How can the world not be different when someone you love is dead? Or when they are, perhaps, dead and yet not dead?
I scuffed my way through leaves that had fallen and then started gathering them the way we did when we were little – like every kid does - trying to find the brightest reds and the most flaming oranges. We used to bring them home to show mum, and I swear every time she managed to make us feel like this time, this time we’d truly found what must have been the very best leaves of the year. She’d press them with an iron between sheets of waxed paper, to show dad when he got home. For someone who died far too young she managed, somehow, to imbue our lives with wonder and the ability to find joy in small things. Please heaven may I do even half as much with my life as she did with hers.
Approaching the hospital doors I slowly dropped all but one red and one orange leaf. I think I was intending to take them home, or give them to day. At any rate, in the end I looked down at the two left in my hand and changed my mind. I waited for a gust of wind and launched them into it and watched them fly away; it was a day for letting things go.
I hate hospitals. Sad faces, fearful faces, lost and angry souls. You’d never think that life starts in hospitals too. The long dingy corridors always felt they were overrun with rivers of sorrow, rivers that I would have to wade against to get where I was going. I don’t remember much of that bit of that day at all. I remember the leaves, and I remember telling my dad I was going out for a bit, to call me if he needed to. I had enough money for the metro and a train home if they needed to leave without me. I didn’t say I was meeting a friend; even that small a lie felt as though it would be too much, as if he would break if the smallest harm touched him. He was, for a while, more akin to a leaf from later in the season: folded in, brittle, without colour. More sorrow for the river to claim.