The street is covered in golden brown leaves. Horse chestnuts strewn across the road, still falling from the trees, their green casings crushed into the pavement. The sky is that pale blue that you only see on autumn evenings. The air is chilly, my breath visible in the air. Walking towards the place I called home. I pick up a horse chestnut and put it into my pocket, the round smoothness reminding me of walking this streets as a child. A plastic bag full of them, rushing home to put them in vinegar so that I could show them off in school the next day.
There’s a couple in front of me holding hands. Walking slowly down the street, enjoying their evening. Lost in their own world, oblivious to anyone around them. These are the days they will remember when they are old. The carefree days, when they had little to worry about. Able to enjoy their young lives in each other’s company. Taking pleasure in the smallest things, just because they are enjoying it together. Things they may not otherwise appreciate. Laughing and smiling, never believing there will ever be a time when they don’t have each other.
A small child is kicking a ball down the street. Stopping to pick up a horse chestnut, examining it and then throwing it away. Not good enough. He carries on kicking the ball down the street. Soon the evenings will be dark before he gets home from school and his mother won’t let him out. He watches as a fox darts across the street, running into the bushes. The first time he’s ever seen one in the city, crossing the road in fear of the fox coming back out of the bushes to get him. Unaware the fox is even more frightened of him.
Now I am in a smoky room. People drinking and smoking, enjoying themselves, listening as someone sings a song. The songs they had brought with them when they crossed over on the boats to find work. When the song is over, they continue to laugh and make jokes. A couple emerge at the door and everyone begins to cheer. Newlyweds, joining the party, singing and dancing. A woman in the corner nursing her whiskey, a tear in her eye as her son shows off his beautiful new wife. Proud of what her small boy had now become. The horse chestnut in her pocket the reminder of his youth.
Suddenly there are cries. Nurses running around, a woman on a bed in pain. A man sitting by her side holding her hand. A few minutes later cradling a baby in his hands. Gazing deeply into the newborn’s eyes. Looking back at his wife, unable to speak but the joy in his face telling everything. One of those moments that he’ll never be able to live again, savouring every second. People arriving in the room to congratulate them both, sharing in their happiness. The start of a new journey in their life, one that will bring them every emotion.
And then back to the streets of my childhood. This time there is a man walking along the street. A sad look on his face. A look of regret as he stops outside his old house. Pulling a picture from his pocket. A horse chestnut too. He holds them both in his hands and weeps openly. Taking the horse chestnut he digs a small hole in the ground and places it inside. Now it’s not just a reminder of his childhood but a reminder of his mother too. Walking away he looks back and smiles, hoping he showed her the appreciation she deserved.
An old man and woman walk past, holding hands. The man looking at the house intensely. Noting that it hasn’t changed. Still the place that he remembered. Squeezing the woman’s hand tightly as they carry on. Both of them lost in their own thoughts. Thinking back over the lives they that had enjoyed, the people they had lost, the children that had made them proud. Enjoying the autumn evening together while they were still able to. Knowing the day would come when all these things would be gone.
There in my last breath I saw my whole life, then only blackness.