It is Autumn. I am in her garden, raking heels through the leaves beneath the cherry tree. I am in dumb retreat as she tells me things I do not want to hear. A symposium of platitudes. She tells me that her love, once as wild as liquorice and peaches, has become altogether more platonic. A faultless situation has given way to cliché.
“Why can’t we be good friends?”
My heart burrows down, far beneath the light. I shake my head. Friends do not kiss under cherry trees. Neither do they bask in afterglow. You cannot find peace deep inside a friend. Friends talk and smile in disconnected ways. I want to stay connected. I want the liquorice and peaches, but as I upend the leaves I see mulch and mutability. I feel loss. An ebbing. A waning. A lunar curse I cannot break. I root around for memories and stumble on some fragment from which I hope to build a bridge.
“Remember that funfair?” I say. “The one with the inflatable cow?”
“Yes” she says. “It broke free didn’t it?”
And deflated I remember. The bovine giant collapsing even as it began to fly. The umbilical hose of helium lashing the air, a flailing entrail, as the balloon crashed to earth, distorted and unrecognisable.
I look at her. A stranger sits beside me, her legs pushing back, her seat rearing from the ground. In confusion I search for reasons. But reasons there are none. Just the voice of someone who cares, but no longer loves, searching for a way out. Forwards. Not backwards. Not now-wards.
I stare at the sky. Clouds hurry past, blown on a fresh wind.
“You’ll need to catch your train,” she says.
Nothing is hanging around today. I gather up my coat, a hard lump in my gut, a dead weight in my chest. She wrings her hands, a gesture I recognise, born of worry and self consciousness. Eager to do this the right way she leans inwards. I am hugged and then kissed on the cheek.
“You’ll be alright. A handsome boy like you…”
I do not hear the rest. She is no longer peaches and liquorice. She is loss, like a blue star whose power dims and wanes. On a clear night I will see and feel its cold stare.
I walk beneath the tree, it’s branches stark above my head and find solace in the nature of things. The leaves, the mulch and decay below my feet and, beneath these, the rich sodden earth, a place from which the sap will rise in spring, when the cherry tree and I will begin again.