I reached into my pack and brought out the clump of leaves that I had picked up by the walk where the shovel had scuffed away some snow off the corner of the lawn. They were folded over and broken along the creases. Some pieces dangled by thin fibres and twisted over, turned under. They could not be reconstructed. I would not try.
I laid the leaves down on my desk and let the twig from which they hung sit half upright giving the cluster a three dimensional quality, supplying depth. My mind rebelled for a moment at this demonstration that these leaves did indeed exist in space. I resisted squashing them flat and tamping them down the way they had lain under the snow for several months.
Slowly I sat and pulled forward a piece of paper and picked up my pencil. I brushed an imaginary fleck of dust from the page and drew a quick line. As I drew I found that I was unable to complete a single arc as each leaf was folded over, truncated and split along the horizontal to its central vein. The flesh of the leaf was dry and brown in parts and decayed away completely in many places.
The minute secondary veins lay naked like a filigree of light brown fibres, lace finer than the hand could create. A softly angular repeated pattern of veins within veins bridged the span between the thicker veins which reached from the midrib to the margin. My sharpened pencil lightly filled in the geometric design with its close but not exact iterations.
The stems or petioles hung crushed and shred into separate stringy fibres. With a few quick strokes of tangled threads I connected the leaves to the twig. The prism-like structure where the blade joined the stem required a more careful treatment. The leaves took shape on paper in a crude imitation of their original shoddy existance.
Tired, I stood up and stretched, knocking a corner of the table and the leaves shifted. They would never again be arranged as they were in the composition I had drawn. So I picked them up in one handful and dumped them in the garbage. It was late and I had done nothing satisfying except trace a few square inches of the filigree of decay.
I ran my thumb up along the side of my nose, expecting to wipe away a tear, or the salt that remains on the cheek long after the tear has dried. But all I felt was a hair that had strayed over and caught itself in the frame of my glasses. Impatiently I pulled the hair out of my glasses and turned to leave. I walked reluctantly to the stairs and climbed up from of the basement. The house was quiet.