So late that the scent of fall had to be searched for in the wintry air.
But it was there
and she breathed it in as she strolled through the park.
Leaves covered the grass,
carpeting the ground with colors so warm that you could almost feel them.
The few that held more strength and determination than the others
clung to the branches of the surrounding trees, dancing in the slight breeze.
These nearly naked trees were so human.
They were things that had once been so alive
but were now nothing more than bones,
reaching their desperate arms towards the gray but still bright sky.
It would have been sad
if she hadn't known that this wasn’t the end for them.
In just a few months,
they would awaken and stretch towards a warmer sky
with brand new colors
and brand new life.
She smiled at the beauty of the cycle and walked on.
She felt the leaves crunching under her feet,
the sidewalk barely visible.
She closed her eyes and took it all in.
The wind blowing her hair and caressing her face,
cold like a distant but adoring lover.
And she smiled.
A sound mixes with the wind.
It's far away.
She opens her eyes.
Searches for the source.
Yards away stands a tiny crowd.
Her pace picks up, but only slightly,
as she makes her way towards them.
As she closes the distance,
the music starts to fill her ears.
Crescendo was a beautiful word.
She'd always thought so.
She excused herself as she stepped past one of the audience members.
There was a man.
Young in age,
but everything that came from him felt differently.
He was looking down
as he strummed.
His voice told a story and she listened.
Something felt familiar.
And then he looked up.
Sometimes pieces of our past return
like ghosts of memories.
She instantly stepped back,
although unsure why.
She removed her hands from her pockets
and pulled the hood of her coat over her head.
She didn't like the effect it had on the music,
but something told her it was a necessary sacrifice.
She let her hair fall in her face.
The smell of her shampoo mixing with autumn and the coming ice.
She peeked up.
A flash of blue eyes before they closed as he hit the chorus.
She let her eyes close too as she listened.
She could stick around.
She could wait until the others left and greet him.
She could bring it all up again.
An old friendship that used to keep her sane.
Maybe that was it.
Bringing her to that slice of what her life once was.
Or what it could be again.
What would he say?
But she didn't want to know.
She had an image of him.
One that she held dearly
as someone who used to make her smile,
like the one she felt growing on her face as she listened to him sing to her.
She knew what to do.
Wasn't this the perfect ending?
Complete with a soundtrack and the perfect setting.
The song was ending.
Maybe one more verse.
And it would be his last song of the day.
The sky was growing darker as night threatened to appear.
She had to act.
She drew a dollar from her purse
and let out a quiet laugh as she pondered the value of his talent.
Of the notes that floated around her.
Of this moment.
She put the dollar back and removed the largest bill she had in her possession.
It seemed silly.
She needed something more.
She asked the man next to her if he had a pen.
She wouldn't have disturbed him
but it was obvious that he wasn't appreciating the show the way he should have been.
She shook her head at that fact as she wrote on the bill.
She tugged on her hood so that it hung over her face just right.
She could see him,
but he wouldn't be able to see enough of her to recognize her face.
Then, she made her way through his temporary fans.
She dropped the bill into the guitar case that sat at his feet.
He smiled a smile she'd seen a thousand times
but never quite got used to
and nodded his thanks.
She smiled back before walking away.
This was right.
She just felt it.
maybe that was it.
The man finished his song moments later
and thanked those who remained standing around him
as they praised him and paid him.
When they'd all gone he sat his guitar on the bench behind him
and knelt to collect the day's earnings.
He began to count.
and then he stopped.
He held one of the bills closer to his face
and struggled to see it better in the dark.
No one ever gave him a twenty.
There was something scrawled across the top in blue ink.
He squinted at it through his glasses.
"Never stop singing, Dear."
But she was gone.
He looked back down at the bill and smiled.
Maybe that was it.
He finished counting the money and packed up his guitar.
Then he walked off, whistling a song to the surrounding trees.
They were so human, he thought as he whistled.
They had been so alive and were now nothing more than bones,
desperately reaching towards the dark sky.
It would have been sad,
if he hadn't remembered how alive they had once been.