Sun shines through gray, hazy clouds and slants gold off slats of old siding.  Old siding with new paint.  Moving vans park under mottled shadows from the canopy of my tree-colonnaded street.  Fewer children, fewer families every year.  Only expectations high off fantasies of the adventure of city memories trapped in amber, the color of rusty pine needles on the ground.  New faces, none that resemble yours, plant desert shrubs in gentrified gardens. Both plant and planter seem out of place until, one day, ever spreading, they aren’t and you are.  Your leaves on the ground, dry and brown, dead, dying, quickly.
      But you digress.
      You walk past a door hung with a wreath of autumn roses, orange and gold.  Pretty, plastic, fake.  A synthetic thing that looks good, mimicking the organic but void of life.  Never dying, sure, but never living.  A metaphor, perhaps, for this new created place being built around you.  While the place you once lived falls in dead husks around you.  Your memories to be raked up and left on the lawn, to be disposed of, carted away.  Only a matter of time.  How will you be disposed of?  You worry your brownness is like that of dying leaves, unattractive in this new place that is growing around you.  Growing over you.  Like summer ivy, creeping a slow conquest over wrought iron fences and garages and the sides of old houses that have held generations of the neglected, the preferably forgotten, the rarely advertised.  Generations of unique and valuable lives, never to replicated, individual as leaves on a tree.
      Or snowflakes. At least winter will give you respite from moving vans.  From new faces, not a one like yours.  From the same impending isolation you’ve known too many times.  The neighborhood you grew up in, your job, social groups.  Where you are the only face like yours; unique, which is to say alone.
      Some will tell you exceptional, which is to say unexpected. But what, then, is expected?  You could guess, but you’d prefer to digress.
      To return to your home, your place, which has become a refuge from the neighborhood that was once a refuge from that exceptional loneliness.  Where the roses that abuela planted all those years ago still bloom in late summer one last time.  They are not autumn colored, but they live.  They are real.  Imperfect and dying, yes, but before that happens they will bloom pink and fragrant and remind you, before they fall, of the beauty of seasons past.  You enjoy the remnants of what was: the retreating bodegas, the snippets of reggaetón from the occasional passing car, Spanish spoken from fewer and fewer porches, attendants at gas stations whose accents remind you of the girls you went to church with right here.  In this place.
      Every shade of autumn brown shows in the faces of kids walking from school to the bus station where they will return to the places their parents can now afford to live.  But while they’re here, they’re here with doorags and dreads, braids and bandanas, high-top naturals and low-top Nikes.  They talk loud.  They laugh.  They live.  And if you squint just hard enough in the sunlight dying golden as it dips behind newly-built condos, you can almost still see, at times, the beauty of seasons past.


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