In honor of cold autumn weather we’ve had recently, I thought it appropriate to share an excerpt from a short story I wrote a while ago titled “The Peak of Autumn.”
“The Peak of Autumn” tells the story of two young adults with a blossoming romance that began in a park one fall. Together, they explore their creativity, share some coffee, and embrace the little beautiful things in the world.
It was the peak of autumn when I saw her for the first time. She was wearing a flowing dress in a soft orange, contrasting perfectly with her deep, glowing brown skin. A rose hue kissed her full cheeks and the sun’s embrace lit her with a gentle lambency as she glided down her route with the grace of a deity. We were in a park, in the middle of Houston, and it was exceptionally full that day. I remember picking her out of the crowd originally not only because of her distinct radiance, but also because of her scent. She must have been ten feet away, but the second I laid eyes on her, all I could smell was warmth- cinnamon and nutmeg, the crackle of a fireplace, the heat of the sun. I saw her, and I swear to God for a second, I could smell color. I could feel sound and hear sensations, and my whole world was flipped upside down the moment she made eye contact with me. It felt like that dewy blanket of air that cloaks your shoulders right before a good rain, when the world is tinted with a gentle yellow, and you realize that all this time you had been looking only at the world’s blue shades and missing all the greens. Like she somehow unveiled all of the beauty in the world that I had previously failed to notice.
Barely conscious, I felt my feet move toward her. The closer I got, the stronger the pull. Before I knew it, the rest of the world disappeared, and it was just her, with her honey-gold eyes staring straight into mine.
“Hi,” I managed to blurt out. She smiled.
My messy hair, forming a greasy mop over my forehead. My face, bright red and drenched in sweat. My old faded anime tee with bright green Nike shorts that clashed horribly with my yellow sneakers. You would think any of this would deter her- would make her suddenly have an appointment to go to, someone to meet. Instead, we went to a cafe. I got an americano. She got an iced caramel latte- extra ice, with oat milk. She got the same thing the next time, too. And the next, and the next.
We found ourselves part of each other’s Sunday morning routine. Week after week, we continued.
We talked about many things during our time together. The weather. Our favorite books. The best museums to go to. The status of the neighborhood cat. But mostly we talked about colors.
“You seem yellow today,” she told me once. That morning I received a call that I had gotten the promotion I had been after for months: chief editor of the Houston Press. They finally fired the previous one whom everyone loathed. I told her this, and she repeated herself.
“You seem very yellow today. Very yellow.”
She seemed orange, as she always did. Today, it was soft orange with a brown undertone. Throughout our friendship, I went through every color of the rainbow, but she was always constant. Always soft, always warm. Always orange, with the occasional and slight shift in hue. I did not tell her this- only that I was glad to see her. To this day, I do not know why I felt the need to be so reserved. Perhaps it was because I didn’t understand her glow. Perhaps I sensed that she would be alright if I never told her. Perhaps I was afraid that by exposing that I noticed this, I would reveal all else that I knew about her. How she always had little wisps of hair sticking out from behind her ears. How the polish on her thumbnail always chipped off first. How when she smiled, it always started with a tilt of her head, and then the left corner of her lip raised, and then the right. I was comfortable with her ignorance of the fact that I noticed the dimples above her eyebrows, and that I knew that she was left handed but ate with her right. All these little details that I held close to me, afraid that they would somehow float away. I drank my coffee and listened to her speak, and we were happy.