I remember leaving, how it felt, how I always bargained for more time.
In the summers, it was easy. On Sundays when I was getting ready to leave, the storms came. We would look out the window at the heavy clouds and dark horizon. You’d say “you’re not driving in this.” And just like that I got to stay until Monday.
We’d go to dinner and I’d lay in your bed watching the sun go down and the inevitable creep up. But even though my heart wasn’t beating fast, one more night was all I needed with you.
On Mondays I would get up before the sun, brush my teeth, quietly zip up my bag and walk out the door. No breakfast, no make-up. I didn’t wake you. I didn’t kiss you on the cheek.
It was easier to leave with you sleeping.
During the school year, you were awake every time I said goodbye. Standing outside of my car, you always told me, “Everything is going to be okay.”
“Everything is going to be okay,” you said to me as we said goodbye for the hundredth time.
For the hundredth time, I got in my car and drove away. But now I don’t think you meant it on the hundredth time.
Every two weeks I stood outside your place and cried. We’d stand in the middle of the road. I’d wrap my arms around your waist and your arms would encircle my shoulders as they sank while the clocked ticked on – I guess our days were always numbered.
“Everything is going to be okay.”
And I believed you.
I’d get in my car, check the clock, and tell myself: 10 days and I would see you again. As I drove away, you’d be walking towards the door as I passed. You never watched me drive leave.
Deep breath. Inhale. Exhale.
But my lungs would never fill with air. I tried, but the air got stuck in my throat. Despite my inability to breathe, I continued to drive two hours – 111 miles – away from you, emptying my gas tank and my heart along the way.
I didn’t want to do anything if it wasn’t with you. I didn’t want to be anywhere if it wasn’t with you.
I’d get back to my place, unpack and head to class. But I never wanted to be there.
“Everything is going to be okay,” you told me the last time I saw you, the hundredth time.
What were you thinking as you promised me this?
So I said goodbye to you, not knowing it would be our last.
And you said goodbye to me with a one-armed side hug.
Two days later, you called. “I can’t do this anymore,” you said.
The real goodbye had begun, and it was as if I had practiced this countless times before.
But something was different.
There was no bargaining for more time after our hundredth goodbye. The sky was blue and the sun was coming up over the horizon. I wasn’t getting another dinner, another night. Not this time.
There were no storms in sight, but yet you created a hurricane.
In the eye of the hurricane, you said “everything is going to be okay.” But the day turned to night, the sky went dark, and you said you couldn’t do this anymore.
You did it over the phone. Was it easier for you to say goodbye sitting in the dark in a room that didn’t feel my smile? Just like it was easier for me to leave while you slept?
After you, my mom said I need someone who is going to carry my heart on a pillow, like the fragile glass it is – someone unlike you, you who carried my heart on your sleeve until you decided that I was no longer a shirt you wanted to wear.
I would give anything for one more of those summer storms, but I’ll always be afraid you won’t carry my heart on a pillow.
“Everything is going to be okay,” you said.
You were right.