You turn around as you pass through the security checkpoint in the airport and see him, standing on the outskirts of the line behind you. It feels like last summer, when he dropped you off at the airport to go home for the break. Except, this time, you won’t see him at the end of three months.
He doesn’t wave. You don’t wave. Neither of you make any particular facial expressions; instead, you stare impassively, wordlessly but full of unsaid words. Any show of emotion would lead to a dangerous slippery slope, and you don’t want to become a bawling mess in public. He kissed you before you got into line, cupping your chin firmly with one hand and pressing the other into the small of your back. His breath still lingers, coffee and gum, and for a brief moment, you consider dropping your suitcases and shoving your way to the end of the line for another taste.
“If you love something, let it go.”
You laughed when he told you that because that was the best response you could imagine. You told him he was cheesy but right; the fact that he would be graduating in May while you still had two more long years of school meant that this relationship would have an inevitable expiration date. He would be moving to some unknown destination, putting the pieces of his life together to form some semblance of adulthood. And you would remain stuck in the limbo of college and adolescence. Your lives were beginning to diverge, and neither of you could keep them together. At least, organically.
You begged him to, at least, come visit next year — to make life without him less lonely. But he said what you and he both knew, that seeing one another would be counterproductive. It would reawake old, unfinished, impossible feelings that would cause the both of you unnecessary pain.
After he said that, your throat started to tighten, but you rolled over in bed and laid flat on your stomach. So, he couldn’t see your face and you could guard your thoughts. So, he wouldn’t see the tears start to drip out of your eyes without your control. So, you could reasonably pretend that you had accepted it as much as he clearly had.
But you hadn’t.
And you still haven’t. As you hand your driver’s license to the guard at the head of the security checkpoint, you feel your chest inflate with nostalgia for something you had and something you know you will never have again.
You take off your shoes, kicking off the left sneaker before the right, and place them in a bin along with your jacket, cell phone, and keys. You hoist your suitcases, almost too heavy for your noodle arms, onto the conveyer belt. Before you go through the metal detector, you turn around one last time, to catch a final glimpse of him before you head into the bowels of the airport.
But, he has already gone.