A windy day, but sunny. This is where it ended. You would have thought time was standing still, but the river kept running and the trees rustled, witnesses. He cupped his hands over his mouth and lit a cigarette, dragging in tobacco and smoke in one long breath. The wind tousled his hair, though he paid it no mind.
October had made the water cold and quick through heavy rains and frosty nights. Staring out over the murky brown water, he remembered his childhood in the river's valley. Thirty feet above the rushing water, he thought again of the times they'd swam there as boys. Memories blurred; he was seven with friends and then fourteen with his first girl, feeling breasts for the first time from under a current. A smile crept over his face, as if he were sharing one last joke with a dying friend. And in a way, he was.
He stood there solid, swaying slightly with the red buckeyes. When the wind picked up, he watched hundreds of leaves float down to the water. The dirt and earth in that water had been carried--carried for so many miles that it was too far from home to ever get back. Our man felt that way too, standing there in silence. Too far from home, too far for hope. He was being carried, much the same.
Isn't it sad how stories end? Especially the ones we want to go on forever? He'd been baptised in this river, at the beginning of his story. It was a long time ago that he'd fallen back in the water, surrendering himself and giving his life to his creator. The water had cleansed him then as it would again, today.
The years have a way of changing a man, just like a river changes its bed. Years of nameless women and bad debts and too much liquor. Years of lies, pain, misery that eroded his edges, took pieces of him downstream. It was the weight of these years that was drowning him, dragging him along and down and under and away like the random leaves floating past him now.
Choking back the memories he had of death, of his mother dying of cancer in an anonymous hospital bed, his best friend being blown to bits in war, his first wife burning in the twisted metal that had been the family car... he stamped out the cigarette with a heavy boot. A gust of wind pulled itself together and past him, sending leaves and winged seeds like helicopters down to the current. He found his resolve and dove off the rocky edge into the river to join them.