How To Say Goodbye To Someone You Still Love

William Ferguson

You’re at it again: You’re leaving the country in a few days or you’re going someplace far with no means of communication. Your bags are packed, your travel documents are good to go. Everything seems to be going smoothly; until you browse through your contacts and find that one person you dread leaving.

That one person who once upon a time meant so much to you, yet, through unresolved issues and awkward absences, you haven’t spoken to in, say, three years. You know you have to say goodbye to him. You know you have to before you leave.


You love mixed communications, sure, they’re fun (though if you’re at the receiving end, not that fun). But in wavy territories, direct is always better. Sometimes you discover the number he had is not the number you have in your phone. You call up a friend, ask for that guy’s number, (of course, under the pretense of something more serious) and, when she gives it to you, call him.

Warning: A lot of times, this is awkward. Especially, if you haven’t spoken to each other in a long time. Bear through twelve minutes of choppy reception or minute-long pregnant pauses, until one of you hangs up the phone. You realize that texting may be the better solution, it affords you more time to think.

You compose a quick text message, “Hey (insert his name here), you may have heard I’m leaving the country in a few days. Can we meet one last time? Please.” You hold your breath, willing the phone to vibrate, and, when it does, and you’re lucky, he’ll reply with a cute “Sure, sure. Just set a date.” He’ll punctuate the text with a smiley, which will reflect how your face would look like.


Face is, in those three years, it wasn’t just you who “grew up.” So has he, probably, if he were younger, more so than you. He may have different plans now then what he had before. He may be into a lot of things now you would never have associated with him before. He might surprise you — while before, he may have been the type to simply agree to anything you say, this time he could be more assertive. He could be the one to insist on a specific date, time, and place. He might even ask you not to smoke, something you’ll quietly ascent to (and, face it, it’s the first time you stopped smoking because someone asked you not to).

Here, just by staring at him, you’d see something you may not have noticed three years ago. Before, you thought you couldn’t be together because of him. Now you realize, you were (and still ARE) in different places — you being the high-maintenance diva who demands coffee on a click of the fingers, and he being the quiet guy who stays behind after events and, without being asked, helps the crew fix the chairs. You marvel at how wonderful he is.


You crave drama, yes, you do. By retelling the story countless times, you may have fabricated stuff here and there. It’s been three years — your memory of the past may be clouded now. So, you’re sitting here with the most special person in your life, and you want to dwell on the negative? Of course not. You suck it up. You have to face the fact that those issues happened, regardless of the why’s and how’s.

A good deal of it is probably you, anyway. If you bring it up now, you would mess up this date severely. The best thing to do is be happy. Try catching-up with him. Try talking about both your plans for the future. Laugh. Dream. Sip coffee. Reminisce about the happy parts. See if he smiles. If he does, you’re on the right track. And those dimples are so damn cute. (You wouldn’t have gotten those dimples had you kept pestering him about why you didn’t end up together.)


Sometimes, it’s nice to go full circle. When you’re leaving, this is one of those times. Do something memorable. You’re never going to see each other, probably for a long time, possibly forever. You wouldn’t want the last thing you do together to be sipping overpriced Frappuccino at an overrated coffee shop where hipsters pretend to be writers, would you?

Three years ago, on your first date, you may have spent the afternoon at a karaoke place. You do that now. You casually suggest doing it to him and he agrees. You walk up the stairs to a place like Timezone and use a card you cleverly purchased an hour before. Inside the cubicle, you slightly persuade him to sing your song. He may refuse at first. You let it go. He sings “The Prayer,” you sing “Only Hope.” You suggest he sing your song again. He refuses.

You realize it may be awkward so you let it slide. You enjoy your time together until you realize your card’s almost out of credits. You tell him it’s time for the last song and you pickup your phone and text your mom you’re on your way home. In the middle of the text, the intro to your song plays. You realize he was saving your song for the last. You continue texting, trying to hide your happiness, trying to catch a glimpse of him singing. Then, and only then, do you enjoy his angelic voice, your ears, slowly turning red. You smile, that’s the only thing you can do.


The hardest part now is leaving. You realize that, unlike your previous date, you don’t have a motivation this time around. You know you can’t be together — you’re leaving. You don’t aim for his affection anymore. You realize you’ve moved on but you’re very thankful for this.

You realize that, without all the drama, you could’ve been friends with this wonderful guy for three years. But then, those three years you regret, you realize how important they were — they provided space for you to mature from the idiocy of youth. You know he’s a really special person, not just for you, but in general, a real special person (and one day, he’ll realize that himself).

Deep down, you know you’re okay. And as you walk with him to the bus stop, the conversation is light until a bus comes. He smiles, wishes you bon voyage. You ask him if you’re okay, if you’re good. He smiles and nods. He boards the bus, you walk home.

You are happy. You need nothing now. Deep down, you’ll always love him but now you truly have moved on. You can leave the country knowing that, though unspoken, you’re okay. It was not a bittersweet goodbye. It was a beautiful goodbye, one that plays are written about. At home, you smile. You put your song on loop (something you haven’t done in three years.)

You stretch on the bed and write a post trying to talk about what happened as if you’re giving advice (obligatorily changing the first person pronoun to the second, so that people won’t think you’re self-absorbed). And you know that once the post has been published, it’s over.  Thought Catalog Logo Mark

About the author

Riley Palanca

Riley Palanca is a playwright, spoken word artist, and video producer based in Montreal.

More From Thought Catalog