I used to read a lot of the Dragonlance books growing up. (I was then a huge Dungeons&Dragons fan and this anthology was its further indulgence.) There was this one book in the Chronicles trilogy titled Dragons of Autumn Twilight. I was more enamored back then with the image of dragons than with the picture painted by autumn twilight. The former was clearly etched in my imagination (honed by hours of fantasy role-playing); the latter was a mere abstraction. Manila was, after all, the land of endless summer.

Today, here in NYC, as I headed home tonight, I realize that I bore witness to what was written. The trees shaken by the wind blew what was left of their wilting green. Leaves littered on the sidewalk crunched upon my hurried shoestep. The many stoops once filled with noisy kids and their nannies were now empty. People tugging at their coats were rushing to get back to the hearth as the light in the horizon continued to fade, quickly and not faintly as if it were a blast of purple fire bouncing from building to brownstone. The apartment was already dark when I got in. I dropped my bag on the floor to a hollow thud, an eerie echo through this shut space as it contained the steam heat cranked by the boiler in the basement. I knew the sun was just on the wane outside but it might as well have been night from where I stood. I turned my blinds to open them and was met with the onset of evening. I flicked a switch and was swathed in the glare of incandescence. I turned the tv on to mute the silence and slumped on the chair as I ate my dinner alone.

Late afternoons in October offer their own slices at fantasy. There are no more dragons though. Only one’s own ghosts, nonetheless very real, remain.