The October winds were sweeping the leaves on the streets about as we walked. It was quiet, save for the rustling sounds of Fall. The faint echo of our opposing foot steps and her silence draws an unknown fear in me. I cannot name this fear, a sort of soundless poison that slowly eats away at my heart.
Passing by the park we used to come to as children, the nostalgic creaking of the swings' chains called out to us. Her expression changed in a way that I cannot describe as she stopped and turned to face me. Curiously, I looked up at her, somewhat confused, somewhat afraid. She opens her mouth as if to speak, but then purposely distracts herself with the migrating geese over head. A cloud of breath escaped her mouth as her lips pulled into a faint smile. Then looking askew, she gently shook her head, and we began to walk again.
As we went on, I fell to trail behind her. My body grew heavy and my mind grew numb. I watched her back draw further away with each of my feeble advances, and I wonder, "Has she always been so thin?" My stomach churned at the glimpse of her spine through her light sweater, and I hastened my steps to return to her side. I did not want to see anymore because my mind is overactive, and I speculate too much.
And so upon reaching the train station, I turned to her as if to ask, "Which route home?" She instead continued to walk without a word to me, so I trudged warily after her. The wind stung my face as I kept my gaze steadily forward, uncertain of my own strengths and weaknesses.
Eventually, our pace matched again, and reluctantly, I reached out a hand to grasp hers. Her body resented my touch, drawing away like some kind of maimed animal. I concealed my painful astonishment and quietly allowed my hand to retreat back into my pocket, its resting place. Her silence is my poison.
Our steady tramp led us to the diner that we use to frequent. Even that lively spot with its table hops dressed in red and white on roller-skates appeared desolate and abandoned now. I reached a hand for the door, but I noticed her receding figure once more. I was chasing again, I know it now. As we walked, aimlessly, unendingly, I heard the effort behind her breath. Something inside me was hurting, and there again was that poisonous fear.
We have ended on some remote side of town, and night has fallen. Standing under the street lamp, she turned without looking at me, her eyes fixed on the cracked pavement on which we stood. Now she reached out with both hands to retrieve the hand that she had previously denied with such blatant repulsion. The tension in my body loosened with some sudden sadness now as I surrendered her my hand. Holding fast to it, still avoiding my gaze, she leaned forward, resting her head on my shoulder in such a frail way that it pained me.
A forever silence fell upon us before it was broken by the stray horn of a passing car. The sharp sound was followed by a chaotic symphony of barking dogs somewhere in the distance and the ringing of a car alarm. Even then amidst the turmoil, our uneasy breaths and bodies shaking with dreadful anxiety still overpowered the bedlam. Finally, all fell silent once more, and with a sharp inhale, she breathed, "I'm dying."
The autumn night stood still. Nothing lived, nothing breathed. My heart stopped inside my mind, and my mind was frozen in time. My eyes watched the proof of my prolonging life manifest itself as an ominous cloud and disperse. In time, I reached up with my vacant left hand to stroke her dark brown hair; I closed my eyes.
"I am dying too," I whispered, "now."