“Don’t pretend it’s not exciting,” one leaf communicated to another leaf in the manner leaves do, with a tearing of an outer edge, as they each fell from the same tree within a fraction of the same second.
The quiet leaf was miffed. This was the grand moment. Ultimate airborneness. The view from above with the assorted perspectives of flight. Everything it’d been waiting for. The meaning behind all of those times the leaf had wished that that particular day was another day somewhere off in the future so it could be this one.
“Don’t wish your life away,” the tree had cautioned. Trees didn’t go anywhere, but they’d seen a lot.
“I’m not,” the leaf responded. “I just can’t wait. I’m hopeful.”
Everything would be better, the leaf thought. Everything would be perfect. To fly through the air was the entire point. It’s why leaves hung in the first place, the leaf believed.
Later there wouldn’t be much to anticipate with any joy. Blowing along the ground wasn’t the same. There were gutters, rakes, defecating dogs, a chance you’d end up in pieces in a compost bag. You probably would.
But nothing could happen during the grand moment, save the glory. Even were a child to catch you—rare as that was—that would only make it better.
The quiet leaf strained. It wanted to retort, but was already almost most of the way down.
“I am trying to savor this,” it communicated back, buckling and ripping as it fluttered and pinwheeled in the slight breeze with its equally slight trace of the summer that had passed. “Please!”
The leaves had been close. They’d lived through the seasons together. They were equally fond of a family of robins who’d built a home on the branch above them. The leaves called the robins the northsiders as a joke and an extension of a feeling of friendliness. They both loved the idea of neighbors. A good neighbor was hard to come by. Neighbors were like friends who lived in your house, but not really, which means they gave you your space. Not every leaf enjoyed living below a bird’s nest, but you didn’t always know what you had until you didn’t have it anymore.
And just like that, the leaf was on the ground, having focused on what it might retort the entire time. Now the leaf couldn’t even see its old friend and knew that it most likely never would again, unless the wind blew a certain way. You didn’t want to have to rely on the wind alone, a precipice of truth on which leaves, ironically, have a fundamental grip.
“Ah, life is that way,” the leaf sighed, a dried vein quivering and cracking near its center. It might have been better to say goodbye during the descent. To have said it quickly and efficiently, with sincerity, and then not lose the rest of the moment. The leaf could have done both, but it was over now. And so the leaf sighed again.
It was sad, and afraid. The tree looked strange from down here on the ground. Upside down. Strange was scary. That the known had become the unknown. Or the less knowable. Or the not known as the leaf had thought it had known. Conceivably there was nothing scarier. There probably wasn’t because it was a fear that had a part that went what else is next? and Is anything known?
Even the sounds of the running steps of what must have been children frightened the leaf. The same children the leaf had observed since the spring before it was a full-scale leaf, when it was a mere bud.
Soon the cold would deepen and stay, and the wind would be winter wind, with no traces of the tongues of summer. The leaf might freeze to the ground. What would that be like? Would there be pain? Would the leaf feel like crystal? Did frost have a taste? Would the leaf peal away to nothingness? What was to be done? Could there be a going back? What of sap? That’s it—some sap might drip down from somewhere and land on the leaf. There could be a miraculous burst of wind that would send it skyward, and if it were just able to get close enough to the tree—or another tree—the leaf might be able to grab on.
But this was not how things worked, as the leaf knew. It was still able to behold the tree from which it had come, the only tree it had ever known, would ever know. That was something. Maybe it’d provide comfort in the night, in time.