man and woman hugging each other

What We Should Have Said Instead Of Goodbye

I don’t remember our last kiss. I remember the sign on the wall of an airport saying “No Smoking”. I wasn’t allowed to enter the airport, but I didn’t know that until the woman working at the entrance said so. One ticket wasn’t enough to get two people in, and my name wasn’t on it.

I remember my shaking hands as I put the note in your backpack, unsure if I wanted you to find it or not. I just knew I couldn’t let you leave without it and that I had to be quick. I changed my mind. I took it back. I hid it in a different pocket.

You came back from checking in your baggage and all you had to do was pick up your backpack and say goodbye. I remember wrapping my arms around you so tightly I couldn’t breathe, keeping my eyes fixed on the “No Smoking” sign on the wall behind you, staring at it as if it was anchoring me to reality.

I remember apologizing for the stain on your shoulder where your t-shirt was wet. I remember hating myself for the clothes I was wearing, as if a different outfit would have made you stay. I remember my heart bursting in my throat as I whispered, “Thank you for everything.”

“No, thank you,” you said, as if I was wrong. Maybe I was.

I remember wanting to say it out loud, but I couldn’t. I remember thinking you would say it, but you didn’t. I remember hoping you would find the note. I remember my voice breaking like a cliff off the land as I finally said the words, but it was too late. My lips trembled and there was no sound and you couldn’t hear me. You turned around for the last time, waving, smiling, out of reach as you had always been.

I watched you walk away, and that was it. I wanted to run after you and tell you, but my name was not on the ticket. My name would never be on the ticket. I remember pressing both my hands over my mouth, wondering if the woman working at the entrance could see me and if she regretted not letting me in. I hoped she would regret it one day or come over and say sorry, but she probably wouldn’t.

I don’t remember breathing. I remember crumbling, breaking, disintegrating, and then I was numb. I don’t remember how I got up from the bench facing the wall with the “No Smoking” sign. I remember looking at the sign, waiting for you to come back. I remember walking away when I knew you weren’t coming, realizing what I should have said instead of goodbye.

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