The grey months are back. The river is a monochrome line through a commuter town. Shrieking magpies hop across the railway sleepers; five for silver. Wheel rims slash the gutter puddles of a wet street. City towers wear loose shrouds and leak osmotically into the concrete sky. Coats are zipped, umbrellas black dots streaming past the tarmac and taxis. Fallen leaves darken and roadside sludge deepens. A thin Biro line traces the schedules towards the end of a year. Daylight fades earlier and the dawn unfixes itself from waking hours. I see my eyelids’ insides. The cloud billows over Kobani.
Here it comes: the football back on telly, the root around the wardrobe for a jacket, the predictions for the bank holiday weekend weather, the TV trailers for autumn’s best viewing. It feels like a final sign-off. You will hear no more from us until Christmas. What you haven’t got done won’t get done. And it has come early this year. As if hibernation is a given. We are not done. We cannot sleep. We cannot rest. We are still blowing craters into history, watching an endemic virus become pandemic, rescuing the refugees. Our nights cannot be darker, not yet.
It’s when, these mornings, that someone passes in the road and says hello and I don’t know what to do, and I clam up, or I hang my head slightly and whisper Hi, or Alright?, like the sullen teenager I was. And I wonder why I can’t reply confidently, head up, even now, after these years. And somehow then I notice the fat blackberries and rosehip in the hedgerow and the first fallen leaves already sludge on the muddy path, and I wonder about all the railway platforms I’ve stood on and the people… and there is one word: autumn.
The warden picked up a leaf. It was perfectly orange but it wasn’t the right one. He looked around, across the park to the woods. The landscape was shades of amber and red. He picked up another leaf. No, perhaps not that one either. He walked down the path and picked up another. Not bad, but still not right. What would the right leaf look like? He should check them all, suspiciously, just in case. He didn’t know why he was looking, only that he’d been told to. He followed orders. And these leaves! They were everywhere this sad autumn.