In the orchard, there are piles of apples below the trees in varying states of decay. Dropped heavy from limbs or discarded by impatient children, the fruit’s a riot of red and pinks pooling around trunks. The small boy goes ahead of me down the narrow grass-lined path between the trees, leaves overhead rippling in wind, his skin dappled in sunlight and shadow. His hair needs cutting and his boot is broken; there’s a hole in the pocket of my worn once sweater and I’m limping from where he landed yesterday on my toes, yet neither of us care all that much about any of this right now. Because here the air smells sweet, the broken apples a kind of perfume, and he is running again.
He is always running. It seems to me he was born like this, full of swift movement and such rare stillness. In this he is not like me at all. I want him to hold here, to stop and breathe. To learn to just look. To wonder about those piles of apples, those red, blushed carpets beneath the trees, blown by wind or gravity or hand. To ask, what do they feed now? If fallen, they are still food. If they ferment in sun. If little flies lift off from them drunkenly, haphazardly flying against wind, or if they instead loiter and linger, settle where edge of smooth apple skin has given way to rot, to puckering, to hole. To wonder if at night there are deer that wander silently among the trees eating the ones that have fallen. If the deer are so quiet they might have been nothing but ghosts, or the dreams of deer someone once had, hoof beats against a moonlit sky. But he is four, and he is fast, and here, that is all that matters, the way the feet move amongst the trees, around the apples and up the silent orchard lane, as if he is the ghost deer chased now, flushed from thicket of leaves into bright and sudden light.
So instead it is me who stops in the shade of orchard trees, autumn air in lungs and hair and mouth. Me who listens to my heart, apple bright, steadily beating. Me who feels my arms, full of apples.
Like they had once been, heavy and sweet, when full of him.