This story and its title are both inspired by Shel Silverstein’s Where The Sidewalk Ends.
My little feet prance, trying to match my father’s prudent pace as we walk on the sidewalk by the road leading towards home.
Delighted by the sound my feet produce, I step on the myriad fallen leaves along the path, selecting the most withered ones. I deviate and get left behind. Father turns to look for me and smiles. He waits for me as I totter and run towards him, giggling. As we walk further, the sun turns into a darker shade of crimson, dropping by the second; and the clouds add another tone of violet to the twilight sky. The cars on the right swish past us; their light beams set to brightest. The earth begins to smell of jasmine. As the concrete horizon devours the sun, the sidewalk ends.
On the road, Father holds my hand and directs me to the opposite side of the traffic, under the shelter of his arm. We now tread with wary steps, avoiding the cars. His smile fades into a shallow frown as I tug at his grip to digress from his hold towards the stack of withered leaves. I realize then, that as the sidewalk ended, so did my playtime.
The sidewalk is narrower than my last memory of it. Today, the clouds decide to paint the vanilla sky in greyer tones. I walk beside father who is busy arguing with me about the multiverse theory. Obviously, he is losing. I shoot my finishing argument with an agitated zeal, and oblivious to my accelerating pace, realize seconds later that I left him behind. I turn and am greeted with a weak smile. He covers the distance as I wait. The walk leaves him wheezing, so the rest of it is a quiet saunter till the end of the sidewalk.
On the road, I instantly switch sides and walk to his left – as always – away from the traffic. We resume talking about mundane issues, but soon run out of things to say. Without saying a word, we mutually agree to share a comfortable silence. The plants nearby emanate a faint petrichor. I take in the aroma with a deep breath and let out a sigh. As I walk under his drooping shadow, tiny droplets greet our visages, and we hurry home.
I walk alone.
The sidewalk has effectively disappeared, and I meander through the parked cars towards home. With its charcoal hues, it seems like the winter sky is ordained to look dramatic and grainy. A chilly wind begins to blow, and I hug my coat tighter. The air smells of smoke and chaos. I reach the spot where the sidewalk once ended and immediately move towards the left, as was the routine. That is the only thing that remains unchanged. I serendipitously encounter some withered leaves on my path, but the only sound I hear is the incessant honking and the occasional thunder from the clouds. It transitions into a loud roar, and I hurry home.
Hemakshi Malik is a physical sciences student at Hansraj College. She has lived her entire life in Delhi but has only begun to know it recently. A budding science-fiction and astronomy enthusiast, stargazing gives her immense joy. Creative writing and photography have created significant value in her life and continue to help her break out of her comfort zone.