It was fall, sure enough, but damned if the season hadn’t caught me unawares.
I’d been expecting a warning sign, like a burst of color from above, but the same old leaves just hung on tight, dull brown and spikey, less alive than the rust on Jackson’s raggedy blue van.
So what if the wind tasted like the sea, and soaring geese screeched overhead, banking in those cooler currents and leading their mates home? We were stuck here now, in the middle of the road, just as stuck as we’d ever been and no end in sight.
Jackson said the road was his middle name, and he gassed up Ol’ Blue like he meant it, but I knew better. Once the dry crept up under his fingernails we were rooting in, and he’d been picking at his palms since Saturday.
Poison ivy, he’d said this morning, playing for time.
The sun hung low in the sky now, slipping behind Jackson like a halo as he pressed closer, all hipbones and Levi’s and love. His fist curled around the edge of his little finger, as if I couldn’t feel the torn flesh where his cuticle used to be, as if we could slow the cycle if only we tried.
Seasons change, he said, and just like that I could taste it.
Sure enough, Jackson was molting.
And in two days time I would be, too, damn him. Already my throat was sore from his scent, a cardamom ribbon in the shifting salt breeze, my body caught up in the sudden swell of seconds.
Overhead, dry leaves rustled, oiled wings stretched wide, and the setting sun painted Ol’ Blue new again. Those leaves would fall, and the season’s stars would dazzle icy skies, but these beauties would be lost on Jackson and me.
Wrapped in the wake of his shedding and he in mine, cocooned in a drift of downy dreams, we’d be alone in all the world. Jackson’s gassed up ride would rust around us in the winter rains, sure enough, but Ol’ Blue would haul us outta here come springtime, just like always.
When green buds burst from these here trees and gosling calls blossomed fresh and wild in the warming winds, we’d ride right off this thorny road, sleek and shiny in our new skins. Ourselves, made whole again.