I don’t really remember the leaving.
I remember the two short-lived hugs at my terminal. I remember the hand full of salty tears that outlined our goodbye and I remember my hands holding onto my bags so tight that my knuckles lost most of their color. I carried them through the sliding glass doors and further forward, until my fingers began to tingle. And I didn’t check to see if they were still standing there behind me. But I didn’t have to turn around to know for sure. They were waiting until I disappeared, I could feel it.
I remember falling asleep and waking up to the tip tapping of the rain. It kissed me hello through the windows of my cab. And it was windy that day so the drops moved sideways before they rushed off the glass. My driver was speeding over the bridge, like he knew I had been waiting for days, months, years. Or maybe he was in a hurry to get home too, I couldn’t tell the difference.
I remember my hair was such a mess. My curls had formed a knot on the top of my head, but a few of them couldn’t quite reach and so they fell to frame my face instead. My four eyes had woken up to the light black shadows of the towering cement and the sparkles of the damp sidewalks. I tried hard not to blink. I didn’t want to miss any part of my introduction. And after a half a dozen stop lights and left hand turns down one-way streets, we found 8th. I remember stepping out with a new numbness in my legs. They couldn’t feel the ground in the beginning. It didn’t seem tangible and the two of them were the first to notice. They were in disbelief like the rest of me.
I remember the first few weeks of getting lost and wet. The clouds would cry and match my tears drop for drop. They’d fall to disguise mine but I never found a way to thank them for it. Walks were long and not always for a reason. I’d pass stranger after stranger. Sometimes our eyes would meet and it was a rush I wasn’t used to. It was easy to be brave when all we had were seconds. We’d intersect and we’d disappear before we had to work for anything.
And I remember the winter wasn’t so bad. Mostly it was beautiful. The dark pavement turned white and the bleak trees turned lovely, peaceful and heavy with fresh flakes. I remember the dogs on my street would tip toe through the powder and past my front door. Their steps would hardly make a sound and then they’d have to head home because their fur coats were always less than they needed. I remember holding cups filled with anything I could find to keep me warm and awake. And I remember slipping into my bed next to the window, with inches left open to the outside. I liked to let in a little of the frozen air and the soft sirens and the screeching breaks. The combination formed an unexpected gentleness that could hum me to sleep every time.
I remember missing things I thought I had already buried into memories, like the sound of my parents’ garage tapping shut and the smell of the ocean and the stubborn turn of my steering wheel. I remember missing the look of empty streets and the way they would tuck themselves in for the night before the rest of us. I remember missing the smell of coffee grinds from the corner store and the year-round freckles that used to sprinkle themselves onto my white skin. I remember missing long showers and car rides with overflowing back seats and fresh-cut flowers from the backyard that used to decorate my nightstand. And I remember missing familiar voices waiting for me in the living room.
Weren’t you scared to leave? He whispered the question like he was trying to keep it a secret. I took a breath, but it felt too shallow. And then my eyes left his. They turned away to stare down at my red shoes. They must have been untied that whole time but I hadn’t noticed. I watched my feet slow their pace and I took my time to answer. No, I said. And it was honest and enough and so we kept walking.