Ben Cluckner walked through the woods behind his old elementary school. The leaves were crunchy as ever and the wind made itself apparent on his bare arms. He was there to remember how unfettered his life once was, and how much he hated being a kid. He looked up at the sky, through the leaves, burnt with oranges and red. It was blue. The sky. He was lost. "You don't know what I mean."
He watched swings swing no one. He loved the wind for doing so. It kept him company most days and most days he wanted to watch the things it did to the loose pieces of everything. Receipts, leaves, dust, glitter, ribbons, hair.
(how her hair blew how her hair blew nothing else was there then)
He put his headphones on. The music was too involved and too exclamatory for him right now. But for some reason it fit. "It's over."
And he was shocked. And the leaves blew. And he smiled and got shivers again. Wasn't the wind. He knew he'd keep remembering little things, until he couldn't think of things anymore. He didn't know that nothing important would happen to him for seven months after that. He didn't know the wind would be different after today. To him, anyway.
In a library downtown Libby Myers huddled in between two big chairs. She didn't want to sit on either of them. She got out a red book. It was small, with two words, written in black sharpie-capital letters: AUTUMN TIMES.
She opened the book to a blank page and began to write:
I can't stop coughing today. In the coffee shop there were two little kids, a boy and a girl, making farting noises. I was trying to hide my laughter when who appeared to be their father gave me a dirty look. I pretended not to think his children were wonderful little creatures of joy. Fuck that guy. Whatever. I just hope he appreciates them. They put too much cinnamon in my warm apple cider. Still good though. For my throat. I miss everything all of the time. I'm feeling alone. I feel like crying but I'm afraid if I start I won't stop. I still think most things are quite strange and beautiful but now that I don't have anyone to share them with…they don't seem so great anymore. I'm too full of thought. I need to be startled. Someone surprise me. Please.
Ben got back on his bike. Blue, rusty, some might say shitty. He rode down hills and up hills, across streets and through backyards. The colors and the way they were all constantly moving. The cold blow, and the motion, cutting through time and space properly advancing forward quickly, solitary. Winter will suck, he thought.
"I'm gonna be so cold." That, he said out loud. To the approaching gray.
"It's really okay. Seriously." Libby felt weird. Some guy in a suit spilled his coffee all over her as he was putting the vhs tapes he had just checked out into his briefcase.
"Here, come on, I have an extra t-shirt in my trunk. You can just keep it. It's no big deal. It's cold out there, and I don't want you freezing to death."
"I don't mind."
"Haha, I like you."
"Well, come on, I gotta get back to the bank in a half hour." Christ, Libby thought, another boring man in a boring town. They walked to his car together. He made a few non-witty jokes and she laughed at every single one. She wasn't sure why.
"Okay, so here ya go. I know, it's a little small. It was my ex-wife's. Sorry. I mean, she just had small tits. Jesus, I'm sorry. Here ya go."
"Thanks." Libby took the shirt. Something was going to happen.
"So, uh, you want a ride somewhere?"
Ben pedaled faster. He was getting pretty cold and wanted to get home so he could make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, watch some old home movies, and pet his cat. Oh yeah, milk too. He would drink it. A little smile worked it's way out of his mouth. That's gonna be so good!
"Turn right here, yeah."
"Can I show you something first?"
"I'm trying to put together this space I just bought. I want to build a studio…for photography and stuff."
"You take pictures?"
"I'm pretty cold. I think I just wanna go home and get warm."
"Well, there's a bathroom in there, you could change…"
Libby was only half-sure what she was getting herself into. And only half-sure that she wanted to get herself into what she thought she was getting herself into. So that's, what…one-fourth awareness. Not bad.
"Okay. Show me."
Fuck this is good. Ben chomped his sandwich, taking a sip of milk in between each bite. The best way. The only way. On the screen in front of him, he watched himself. 5 years old. Perfect. Blue and yellow striped shirt. Little kid jeans. Barefoot. Fall time. I was a good little boy. I miss myself.
The shirt was tight on her. Tight enough to be suggestive, even though it was his suggestion. Fuck, what am I doing? Who is this dude, and why did I come here?
"Want to fuck, or what?" The bank man came up behind her. She let him take off his ex-wife's tiny tee. Breasts were exposed, and roughly handled. She let him. He turned her around and she stopped feeling ground. He moved in and breathed on her mouth. She closed her eyes and felt wetness and warmth, and a beautiful castle crumbling into dust.
Fuck this is good. Ben chomped his sandwich, taking a sip of milk in between each bite. The best way. The only way.
Libby watched her feet as she walked. One foot in front of the other. One of her favorite things. Step and step and step and step and step until stop and somewhere new. You were what the wind was making with illuminated leaves. She read it when she was younger. Only a few years. And yes, it was right. Nobody will ever be exactly how you want them to be. I will always be in love with every boy I've ever known and it will never go away. She saw the leaves, felt electricity. Her skirt was static and shocking her pale legs. She was okay then. I remember the time he gave me the ribbon he picked up from off the street. It was blue, yeah. When I woke up it was weaved through my hair. It was a windy day and when I opened my eyes his were looking right back at me. There is nothing like this.
Ben turned off the television. He went outside to check on the wind. He ran into the street and shouted something. He noticed the sun was going down. Fallow Periods. Lucinda light. I forget what it's called. It's pretty. He began to walk. She always asked me if I ever watched her when she didn't know I was watching her. I wasn't aware enough and she always was. I was spending all my time in the moment and all the time in her head was somewhere I sometimes didn't notice. Fuck. Fuck. Gosh. Most times.
"Hey Mom. Yeah. No, I work that weekend. Yeah. I'm sorry. Soon. I know. No, we're not seeing each other anymore. Yeah. Well, I don't know how to explain it. It's kind of…it's something…yeah…yeah…okay. Yeah, I'm fine. It's okay. Talk to you soon, Mom. Love you. Bye." Not seeing each other anymore. Let the apples fall. Pretend that everyone is shit until they prove you wrong. Don't let your heart get cold. It's okay. It's okay.
" Hmmph." Libby reached her front steps. She got out her keys. She opened the door. She looked outside. She closed the door.
Ben Cluckner kept on walking.