How To Say Goodbye

Meet them and maneuver the awkward hello. Look them over carefully, checking unconsciously for some external change. They look basically the same, unsurprisingly, more worn out maybe but what else did you expect. It hasn’t been that long. Realize you’re examining them without actually trying to see them at all. Realize this is just another meaningless collision of bodies in space and wonder what you’re doing. Feel trapped and ridiculous and get the urge to run but stay rooted.

Sit at opposite ends of something. A table, a couch, a subway car, anything. Sit anywhere but next to them. Make a point of the physical distance. Sit far away enough so that you can watch their hands move, watch their jerky adjustments. Watch their hands tear a hangnail, flick a lighter, twist a napkin. It’s suddenly unbearable to watch their hands. Look down at your own.

And start. Choose your words carefully from the list of things you planned to say; concise, carefully metered, explained. Have points to get through that you practiced beforehand on the walk over. Carefully extract the emotion from your voice. You told yourself you’d stay sober so you don’t end up saying the wrong thing, but…

They try to interrupt but don’t let them, keep going. Tell them exactly how you feel, though you’re not sure at this point if it’s how you feel or if it’s just lyrics that make sense. Barrel through your list of obligatory statements: you’re in a different place now, and this won’t work, and the past is the past, and the future is unknown so maybe something will happen later. On and on through the endless vague assertions. Keep talking until you’re going in circles. Keep talking until your throat gets dry.

They have an indeterminable expression — something unsettling and endearing that you can’t fully read. Something that makes your heart splinter. They’re going to tell you how they feel and you don’t want to know. You don’t want to know because you already know and it’s too sad. The muscles in your chest tighten threateningly and you feel betrayed by your own biology.

Your first impulse is to take their hand and reassure them, tell them it’ll be okay; hold them, rock them, make it all better. You realize how stupid that is but you can’t help feeling it, it’s what you’re used to doing. But you can’t tell them it’ll be okay, you can’t because the only thing that could make it okay is you and you can’t give them that. So you just sit there and keep your mouth shut.

Then you discuss the meaningless things, the splitting of things — finale logistics, what day works to pick your stuff up — and you feel the inevitable twinge of doubt. People make all kinds of things work, don’t they? People who don’t even speak the same language get married to each other. People stay together throughout infidelity, throughout illness, throughout death even. So why? What’s broken?

Something is. And the more you try to pin it down, the less clear it becomes.

The person across from you is a stranger.

You’ve run out of words and it’s time for goodbye. Good luck with everything. I’m here if you need me. We say that, why do we say that? It’s the last place we ever want to be.

A hug. A kiss. A handshake. Or nothing. You turn away before they can open their mouth to say something else and leave them standing there on the sidewalk, leave them lighting a cigarette or walking in front of a bus or just standing indefinitely. Think of Orpheus exiting the Underworld and smile grimly as you remember that was a totally different thing.

Try not to look back either way. TC Mark

image – Eurobas


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  • beatrice kt

    Ive always wondered why it has to end and feel so distant when there are plenty of marriages that reek of bleakness and boredom. This then leads me wondering on whether all my relationships are going to end this way or maybe hoe this shouldn’t end because it’s the best case scenario since it had the most passionate start

  • AbuBakr Hussain

    you know, i am going through this thing today.. strange i find it here…
    i felt this strange emotion, perhaps because we came so close to getting engaged..
    i was shaking.. i thought it might be adrenaline.. it wasn’t, adrenaline makes my heart speed up.. but i was shaking, my voice was quivering.. I thought my voice quivers when i cry.. but i wasn’t crying, i had no tears..
    and then i thought, well i am shaking… am i cold? but i wasn’t cold.. i was warm..
    and i kept on shaking, i kept on quivering as the words tumbled out..
    word which i wish could have been kept in a box tucked away for all eternity, but it wasn’t to be.
    so i quivered…
    and when the words had all tumbled out. i was empty. there was nothing left.
    i’m going to go for a run now, maybe feeling pain in my feet will make me feel alive again.

  • Only L<3Ve @

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  • emdub

    I most likely will also have to go through this today as well. Thanks for posting this. I hear you, Abubakr.. go for that run. It will help.

  • Bitter

    Having no good reason to leave someone is not a good reason to leave someone.

    • Em

      But having no good reason to stay is.

      • SaraLily

        YESSS! thank you, Em! you took the words right out of my mouth!

  • Oh dear

    Ive been at the other end of this quite recently. It makes it harder and more uncomfortable when they end it as if they care when really they don’t.

  • Chantal-Denise Ortega


  • Leah Cox

    Couldn’t be more appropriate for what happened to day. Nearly literally bumped into someone who used to a friend. Realisation of who it was but didn’t hang around for any awkwardness to occur. Was just like almost bumping into a stranger.

    Probably would feel better right about now if I had actually said hello now I think about it.

  • SaraLily

    …or the other person will break down and freak out and cry like a baby, making things soooo extremely awkward and uncomfortable. yeah, i had this experience but with the crying back in the fall. it was the hardest thing i’ve ever done!!

  • ty83

    Reblogged this on quintessentialpetrichor.

  • Cherrie

    I remember bumping into my ex, who lived in another state, in my hometown. I had a meltdown right after he left. Quite embarrassing since I was in a retail store… But I couldn’t control myself. I feel like the world likes to play tricks on you sometimes…

  • http://chan loralei

    /sobbing into my pillow/
    yeah, life sucks sometimes. I’d do anything to be in your company again kev

  • couldabeen

    i’m somewhat torn and going through this as well, again, funny I should find it on here. We’re engaged, and the only time I can completely see myself with him is when we’re on the verge of being done. How fucked up is that? After 5 and a half years, I’m not really sure if it’s normal to feel like this, or if he’s just not the one. I feel like I’ll be making a mistake either way.

  • Sarah

    Wow. That just made me ball at my desk. You nailed it perfectly.

  • Isa

    i just recently had to do this to my (now ex) boyfriend of 3 years. i couldn’t have written this better myself. it may have left me sobbing for 3 hours, but goddamn did you nail it!

  • theothermoon

    Reblogged this on Before I Sleep….

  • Thought Catalog

    Reblogged this on Ashtray Girl.

  • Thought Catalog

    Reblogged this on Crazy Biterella.

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