Across the Seasons — Autumn

Photographs by: Christopher Prosser and Shaun Schroth / Words by: Christopher Thompson and Heather Fawn

Across the Margin, in coordination with Washington D.C. photographers Christopher Prosser and Shaun Schroth, interpret the seasons through both snapshots and words……

Fall would always greet him in the same manner. One day, the brutal heat of an endless city summer was pressing down, thick and humid, threatening to smother his world. And the next day it was gone, replaced by some element of crispness, an intangible, representing a shift to the air, a prickling of the skin, and a quickening of the heart.

To breathe that crispness was invigorating. In the mornings he would rise very early, stepping through the ancient doors of his crumbling apartment building to linger on his stoop, inhaling deeply on the first morning breath. It was the breath that set the tone for his day, made him feel alive. Like he had momentarily stepped free from the monotony of his existence to look upon the world with fresh eyes.

Bright and all seeing, they were the eyes of his youth, pure and innocent, unclouded by prejudice or bias, influence or expectation. He savored those reflections, chased them down to their very end, lapping up every drop of recollection with childlike abandon.

And it was in those quiet moments, during that time of change when the world was no more asleep than it was awake, that he would recall what he used to be like. Before the ceaseless drumbeat of life had set its key in him and sent him marching involuntarily down its path. Before the responsibilities of status and place had dulled his senses and muted his desires. He would remember that he was once free, beholden to no one person or creed, existing in that idyllic time when the call to adulthood was too far off to be heard and youth was still King.

He would remember that those autumnal days would be filled with endless hours of golden adventure, his toes barely alighting on the ground as he explored his family’s verdant lands. From high misty hilltop to low damp crevice he would traipse, his dog perpetually underfoot, faithful and devoted. His partner in adventure. His accomplice. His confidant. The promise of adventure lay on the winds of the lands and he heeded its call without question. Would charge headlong in, strewing evidence of his travels about him.

With his bone handled pocket knife, a gift from his father, he would carve his initials into the soft yielding bark of the passing birch trees. Later on he would eat of the tart crab apples ripening in the wild orchards growing by the slow-moving streams, tossing about the half-eaten cores for the forest wildlife to devour. And then, deep into the woods by now, he would gather up the endless lawns of newly fallen leaves, assembling them by the armload into towering piles of damp-smelling earthiness. And being sure to get a good running start, he would jump, wildly screaming, into their soft velvety middles. Again and again he would emerge from the decay, wild-eyed and reborn, a leaf-covered Phoenix bursting with joy and contentment.

And as the day wound down and the sun slanted low behind the hills he would drift home, vibrating in a twilight dream of color and wonder. Reds, yellows, oranges and browns, flaming in the light of the setting sun flickered all about him, hypnotizing him with their rhythmic swaying. And overhead the bats of twilight would twist and dart, their eerie soundings filling the sky with a staccato symphony of sonic tones. A sightless nocturnal army madly gorging themselves on the last insects of the summer.

And as he lay in bed at night, teetering on the cusp of a childhood dream, he could still hear the songs of Fall twisting through the nearby trees. Could still smell the musty scent of the forest leaves mingling with his skin and could still feel the cool breeze of change, the ushering in of Fall, flowing in gently through his bedroom window. And as he drifted off to sleep, his dog at his feet, his clothes hung nearby, he made silent promises to begin the adventures again tomorrow.

But tomorrow never came. A heavy loss to his family came calling instead. Hard and quick it arrived, alight on broken dreams and empty promises. And fierce and determined it left, wrenching him from his youth far too soon. And like an unripe fruit plucked too early from the vine, he became bitter, souring as he watched helplessly as the mold for his life set while he was still too young.

A passing cars honking horn violently startled the man, wrenching him from his meandering thoughts. Slightly annoyed at the intrusion he looked up only to notice that his morning bus was starting to pull away in a cloud of exhaust from its stop across the street. Cursing silently, he sprinted down his buildings steps, hurrying to catch his morning ride. And as the bus gained speed, he stuck his arm out into its slowly closing doors, halting temporarily their movement and allowing time for him to clumsily pull himself aboard. Head lowered, eyes downcast, he hastily paid his fare to the perpetually scowling driver and took an empty seat. Leaning his head against the bus’s grime-stained window the man looked out as the dull gray city passed him by. Closing his eyes he thought of his youth and made a promise to himself to begin the adventures again tomorrow.

Christopher Thompson

Autumn is unrequited love. You find the best pair of argyle socks to impress her, and she excels at providing you with the quintessential Indian Summer day to make you feel foolish for trying. Autumn strokes your hair with fragrant leaves. They become entangled. Autumn gives you sunsets and bonfires and scenery that never fail to break your heart. She doesn’t care whether or not you like pumpkin or cider, she tries to sneak it into everything, even your fucking coffee. Autumn used to tell you your back-to-school outfits looked stupid. She kills your flowers with early frost.

Without fail, one day you step outside and realize she’s gone. Remnants of her are scattered, wet and smashed and broken, along the ground. Her lukewarmth is replaced by winter’s bitter, brazen indifference, and you look away. Each year, you know this will happen. Each year, you shamelessly follow her around, kissing her ass and telling her she’s beautiful. Autumn doesn’t leave her number. She always runs off with Halloween.

-Heather Fawn

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