The Fridays are whizzing by; I can’t believe it’ll be Christmas Eve next week! This Friday, I’d like to welcome Helen Johnston as my Guest Writer. She’s written a super short story for us.
Autumn blew into my life on a windswept September day. I had been living in New York for a few months and was still finding my feet, navigating the city, trying and failing to make friends.
I had spent my day off plodding the streets, discovering new thrift shops and bookstores, wiling away the long hours before I returned alone again to my downtown bedsit. As I turned onto 22nd Street, large plops of rain began to fall from the sky and I ducked through a doorway into a dimly lit bar for some shelter and a much needed drink. As I shook the raindrops from my jacket and wrestled with my scarf, a loud voice called out from across the room.
‘Hey, I love your hair!’
I glanced over my shoulder but the doorway behind me was empty. The tall, red haired woman leaning against the bar was talking to me. I lifted my hand to self-consciously touch my newly cropped head but my hair was irrelevant. Autumn had claimed me as her own, swept me up, and I had made my first friend.
She sipped a cocktail called a ‘Hudson Hurricane’ and had a voice that suggested a forty a day habit, although I never once saw a cigarette near her lips. She called me ‘Beau’- I never knew why. She said it suited me. We drank late into the night, while Joan Jett blasted from the jukebox and Autumn told me about her life, asked about mine. She worked in hairdressing and flitted from place to place, going where the work was and her heart led. At closing time, we spilled out onto the rain-soaked alleyway and ran arm in arm to find a taxi.
We were inseparable for weeks. She introduced me to people I would never have had the fortune to meet. She could work a room in ten minutes, gathering people up under her wings, dragging them out of the shadows. Within hours, we would be singing Karaoke, dancing until dawn, knowing we would never be lonely again. We strode unfamiliar streets, the air growing colder, the days shorter, the leaves crunching under our boots.
I tried to hold onto her, but she was flighty, impulsive. I always felt she was one step ahead, vanishing round corners as I tied to grasp the hem of her red coat. When she didn’t appear in the bar as planned one night in early November, I felt the chill of winter in my bones. When I returned home later that night, there was a message waiting for me on the answering machine.
‘Hey, Beau! Gotta go. I’m heading to the west coast for winter. I’ll give you a call sometime.’
She never did.
Autumn swept out my life as the first frost appeared on the sidewalks of Manhattan. I wasn’t surprised, I had known she was never mine to keep. She had planted the seeds of my future and my new life was beginning to grow, under the grey pavements of the city, unfurling, stretching, ready to bloom come spring.