The leaf is fragile.
It clings to the bare, skeleton branch of the tree, swaying and shivering as the wind blows icy particles that resemble snow across your face.
You have been sitting under the tree for two hours because you have no where else to go, and the metaphorical fate of the dying leaf clinging to life is so deeply moving that you have to watch it battle its own destruction.
Another gust of wind, more gentle than the first, kisses the leaf's paper-thin skin, carefully and insistently prying tendrils off, piece by piece. They scatter and spiral down to you, and the flecks of dead, once-living, once-vibrate and beautiful plant crumble as they land in your hair.
The formidable gray of the sky taunts you, threatening snow. Thinking of the cold makes you lonely, makes your bones ache with that ever-present desire for home. When you were young and their was lights on the christmas trees, and laughter that burned in your belly and your curled up by the fireplace with you Grandpa's old dog as your pillow.
But that was then, and this is now. Reality is as hard as as cold as the frozen ground under your glove-less hands, and it seeps into you with an icy chill, slowly spreading until you reach the point of utter despair. Because there will be no warm fireplace, or christmas trees with sparkling lights or the sweet innocence of falling asleep with a blanket of living, breathing fur.
So you find solace out in the cold, and in the leaf's struggle. It is shivering now, like you, unwilling to give in, unwilling to relinquish its hold on the branch from which it had blossomed earlier that spring. The wind tugs at it, coaxes and begs, but the branch only dips and sways, the leaf dancing along with the movement, ever the willing partner of its tree.
You have been writing all this down in harsh, bold words. Words like, why don't you come back for me? and, What did I ever do to you? and It wasn't my fault that it had to-
The pen slips in your fingers made clumsy from the cold, and the sentence trails off in an angry line of stark, black ink.
The wind is tossing the tree branches now in a wild fury, howling and snarling like a savage beast, and you duck your head as it bites through you, but the leaf still clings with a kind of desperate intensity.
You remember those last few days, when the house was quiet and dark and no one spoke a word. How the packing had started late one night and the next day everything was gone. You remember how you cried, and an old dog(not your Grandpa's old dog, your old dog) licked the tears from your cheeks. You remember the gray days of work, mechanically sliding your way through the monalnatous path of life until you can go home and sit out staring at the leaves falling from the trees and cry a tear every time one falls.
And now your on the last leaf.
In a way, the leaves have been a way to mark your own personal struggle. Your pain and your grief and your anger have been remembered in the brilliant pieces of red and orange that paint the frozen ground like photographs of the dead, haunting and heartbreaking and beautiful.
The leaf is barely hanging on, and you feel that way too-tossed and teased and broken by the world. But this is your change, you remind yourself. To get back up, to try again.
A car horn beeps in a cheerful, almost hesitating way, and you turn towards it. He is smiling at you, with that casually gorgeous smirk that stuck out that one gray day in September. He raises a hand, beckons.
You find yourself smiling back without realizing, and you stand, wave back, turn your back on the bare tree with the single leaf. But you look back, for one last glance, and see that the leaf has relinquished its desperate grip. It's spiraling down towards the ground almost in slow motion, and you watch it fall.
He is still smiling when you reach him, and takes you up into his arm. You breathe in his smell of woodsmoke and dog and hot coffee and relax.
"The last leaf?" He asks, and you smile and nod into his chest. He strokes your hair. "Coffee?" He breathes, after awhile.
"Yeah," You say, and tilt your head up to look up at him. "let's go."
You look back for one last glance of your tree as you drive away with him, watch the wind toss its bare branches and imagine the final leaf scattered across the ground, no longer alone.
The leaf had let go.
And you realize as he reaches out for your hands, twines your fingers into his and sings a corny song on the radio at the top of his voice, the words being snatched up by the biting wind, that you had let something go too.
You weren't going to waste your time figuring out what though.
There is too much life to live first.