I’ve only made one promise in my entire life. As time seamlessly goes by, the day and night losing their separation, dates evoking no emergency within me, and life slowly becoming devoid of any true meaning, I continue on because for some reason my soul feels obligated to uphold this promise. Pride doesn’t dictate how I operate and shame puts no fear in my heart. So why I’m inclined to remain true to my word is beyond me and it’s bothering me that I can’t get to the bottom of it.
It snowed six inches two days ago. Being that it’s the middle of autumn in New England should cause some concern but nobody’s going to truly care about climate change until it’s irreversible. However, the clashing of seasons was an enamoring site to see. The way the white crystals were gracefully gliding through the rainbow-colored trees was a common showcase of nature strutting its elegance. It’s seventy degrees today and most of the snow has melted leaving a shiny gloss on the leaves that’ve gone back to their roots. I figured today was as good as any to rake them up.
I didn’t own a rake, a leaf blower, or any device that could be used to either gather or disperse leaves. It’s one of those things I’ve never felt the need to do until this very moment. I live in a three-family apartment. I assume that someone has to have one, yet, it feels like I’d be a burden if I was to ask to use theirs. I’ve never interacted with either of my neighbors before. It’ll be weird if I go from never speaking to either of them to asking for something. ‘Hey I know we never talk but would you mind if I take advantage of your resources for nothing in return?’ See how awkward that is? Instead, I’ll just loan it from one of them without their knowing. Thankfully they both work day shifts so that gives me enough time to do what needs to be done without either of them knowing how it precisely got done.
I went towards the upstairs apartment first, that way if she doesn’t have one I can walk down the steps in disappointment rather than annoyingly trudging up three flights of stairs. The door was locked. Why had I expected anything different? I have no clue. I tried my keys in the lock. Didn’t work. Why had I expected that to work? Again, I have no clue. Now, I could’ve just breached the door since this entire complex is made of bare minimum material but I thought it was excessive to break into her house for a rake. Especially for a rake I’m not sure is there. Downstairs I went and his door was unlocked.
The unfamiliar smell of his apartment tickled my nose. It wasn’t musty by any means but it wasn’t pleasant. It was a strong, unidentifiable aroma that made the air feel thick as if it was telling me that I was an unwanted guest. The nerve of this apartment. The rake was by the door. I thought about roaming through the area to see the pieces of personality that one decorates their space of living with. Then I thought about finding something I had no business discovering in the first place, grabbed the rake, and left.
A gust of wind knocked droplets onto my shoulders once I stepped on the porch. The fresh air made the inside of my body float with each inhale. The sun was smiling at everything it touched. A flock of birds temporarily painted the sky with their unique formations. I would’ve shed a tear at the scenery if I wasn’t accustomed to suppressing my emotions.
Typically when I’ve witnessed people rake their yards they’ll put all the loose leaves in a trash bag. That makes no sense to me. Nature shouldn’t be thrown away. What I planned on doing was raking them toward a tree and forming a neat ring of fiery colors. Just as I was about to begin, a sudden gray wave overcame me. The urge to complete this simple task was dwindling. I looked towards the sun and it seemed dim. My breathing was happening in unnaturally slow increments. I closed my eyes and remembered the one life-binding promise I made and it was as if those previous moments were erased. The sun was again jubilant and the air tasted refreshing.
As a kid, every chore felt unnecessary and exhausting. Now, at my grown age, chores are meditative. Somehow organizing is calming when you do it on a whim. The soft metal of the rake massaging the leaves gave me a sense of nostalgia. I can hear pancakes sizzling on a stove. Graham crackers being scrunched up. Orange juice being poured…maybe I was feeling more hungry than nostalgic. As I was having a fantasy of breakfast to come, the rake got stuck on a bundle of leaves. I kept trying to force them to move, thinking they might’ve been frozen together and stubborn, but they wouldn’t budge. When I went to move the bunch by hand, something was glistening a few feet away. Hoping it’d be gold or a time capsule I walked over to the mystery.
It was a spoon. Not just any spoon though. It was a silver spoon. You know that same silver spoon used as an analogy for people that allegedly had an easy upbringing. Also, the same spoon that feels the cold rush of milk on many mornings. The same spoon that is at times used as a drumstick on an anonymous surface. Not lost jewelry or recovered artifacts from the past. It was a spoon. I laughed a little because just like life, you can expect something grandiose from the unknown only to be given something so simple like a spoon. I put it in my pocket and continued raking.
The one promise I made was to myself. After failing at so many of my aspirations, I wanted to give up on life. It’s mentally draining to continuously be unable to grasp your desires. I felt worthless. Happiness became more elusive. Smiling always felt forced. It reached the point where I’d sit in darkness for hours on end, forcing the inner monologue of my mind to be silent. Then one day, when I was on my way to the kitchen, I heard a commotion outside. I went to the window to see what was happening. A wolf was mauling a rabbit…Nah I’m just kidding. It was actually a bear…again, just kidding. A kid kept falling off of his skateboard and not just small falls, they were skin-harming kinds of falls. He just kept getting on and trying whatever trick he was trying to accomplish. I watched him fail dozens of times, one because I was bored and to see if he’d give up but he never did. How could a kid have more perseverance than me? I was jealous.
So I promised myself to never allow my pessimism to dictate my life. I’ll never be able to completely eliminate those intrusive thoughts or that dark feeling that sometimes washes over me. However, I have enough willpower to stop it from totally encapsulating me. Still, it never made sense as to why a kid falling off of a skateboard was the catalyst for this promise. How could something so simple have that much of an impact on me? It doesn’t make sense. Life doesn’t make sense. These leaves don’t make any sense. I’ve been doing too much thinking and not enough raking.
“Is that my rake?” I looked up from the colors of autumn to a familiar face of a stranger. “I don’t know too many people with a light blue rake so I just thought it might be mine.”
“It is…” I didn’t know what else to say.
“Did I leave it out?”
“No. Your door was unlocked.”
“…” I didn’t know how to casually say I snuck into his house to borrow his rake. I knew this would be a weird conversation. “I was going to bring it back. I just didn’t have one and thought…you know…one of my neighbors must have one…so…”
“So you stole one out of my house?”
“I always thought you were a little strange but I can’t argue with logic.”
“Yea, what you did makes sense. I’d prefer if you didn’t do it again,” he laughed “but I’m not upset. Maybe next time you can ask me to use it.”
“Also maybe you can stick around and chat for a bit. This isn’t exactly how most first conversations go.”
“Right.” I failed at doing a light laugh and made a weird noise instead.
“Okay then. Just bring it back whenever you’re finished.” He went off into the apartment. That went better than I expected. I reached into my pocket to check what time it was because he shouldn’t have gotten home this early. The spoon was gone.