"Finding Fall" is one of the August Writing Challenge entries that was chosen to be a featured story.
I stand completely still as the subway comes screeching into the station, sending my hair and loose articles of trash flailing in disarray. The blast of frigid air it delivers from the world above should paralyze anything in its wake, but I feel nothing. That’s how it’s been for 2 months now. Wandering, hoping, wishing, dreaming, but never feeling.
I’m swept away with the crowd as we charge, like stampeding cattle, from the platform to the waiting car. I find a seat and begin counting. “1, 2, 3, …” I read somewhere that counting distracts the mind and prevents it from thinking about the real problem at hand, which, in this case, is you. I make it to 10 with no such luck. I glance out the window into a bottomless abyss of darkness. My reflection on the smudged glass is the only scenery that greets me. My eyes are blue and cold as ice. They inspect my rosy cheeks and button nose with great criticism. Finally, they follow my disheveled, blonde curls from their hiding place under my beanie until they delicately rest on my shoulders. I’m reminded that I don’t need a magic mirror to tell me I’m not the fairest of them all. You already made that pretty clear.
I can’t bare to look at myself anymore, so I read today’s newspaper over the shoulder of the man seated next to me. I attempt to soothe my mind with the confusing numbers of stocks, ridiculous ideals of economics, and twisted words of politicians. However, my thoughts, like the subway, are fast, bumpy, and constant. The same questions keep playing in my mind: “What did I do wrong?” “Why did you have to go?” “More importantly, why did you have to take part of me with you?”
These questions continue to haunt me as I climb the stairs and step into the daylight of a crisp, fall afternoon. F. Scott Fitzgerald once said: “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” New York validates his point around every corner. All over the city the leaves dawn their brightest hues, store fronts prepare for the approaching holidays, and the sweet aroma of pumpkin spice lattes dance in every cafe and coffee cup across Manhattan. It’s inarguably one of the most picture perfect moments of living in New York City, but I don’t see any of it. I am like a broken camera, shattered and completely out of focus.
There was a time when I would’ve believed the words uttered by Fitzgerald. There was a time when I would’ve relished in the coming of Fall just to see the colors reflecting in your hazel eyes. There was a time when I would’ve welcomed the stress of finals week, knowing that afterwards I would spend the hours listening to your parents tell embarrassing stories while we sat by the fire drinking hot chocolate. There was a time when I would’ve stood there, motionless, as your lips crashed into mine and knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that we were infinite, whatever the season. These times evaporated with the rays of summer, and I am left to live a life without you, alone and uncertain.
A gentle rain settles over the city, and I watch as people rush to safety, leaving the streets empty and abandoned. I look up and watch as the droplets make their decent from the looming clouds to the cold, lifeless pavement. I stand there as the water crashes against my skin hoping my sorrow and any memory of you will wash away with it, but I only get soaked to the bone. I burst through the nearest door to escape the now raging storm and find myself in the welcoming tranquility of a bookshop.
The shop is small and quaint. Its walls are plastered with every manuscript known to man, and they invite you to search their enticing shelves. The distinct smell of dried ink lingers in the air. I scan the rows of books and run my fingers along their spines. I finally select a well-worn Hemingway novel. He may have tried to scratch an itch in the back of his head with a shotgun, but his words provide comfort to the aching soul.
I’m walking to the cash register when I see the typewriter sitting in a dark corner of the shop. The rusted, black exterior has received its fair share of bangs and bruises. The keys, a once pearly white, have spent the years aging to a pale yellow. The letters are merely faded scribbles upon the tattered keys. Still, the typewriter is sufficient, strong, and beautiful. I haven’t written a sentence or even a word since you left, but somehow, my fingers find their way to the fragile keys. I rip out a page from the front of my book and feed it through the typewriter. With one slow, steady breath, I begin typing.
I write with a vengeance, releasing every emotion imaginable onto the white, blank page. My words turn to sentences. Sentences to paragraphs. Pretty soon, I’m staring at a page filled with not only words but also myself, as if the ink had preserved me like a pressed flower, both strange and familiar. For the first time in months, I feel something. Something comfortable. Something right. Something whole.
As I return to the brightness of the city, I see everything in complete clarity. I see the colors of the trees. I see the elegance of storefront windows. I see the vibrance of Manhattan and everyone in it. I see myself, still broken and confused but prepared to embrace the newness of life. As I stroll off into the vibrance of the city, I don’t know where life will take me. I don’t know what I’ll find out about myself. I don’t know when I’ll stop thinking about you. All I know is I have found Fall, and that’s all that matters right now.