My Hidden Lives // Prose

40. about goodbyes

what he wrote

This is it then, game over.

At first, you don’t call or write. I scribble little notes and stick them all over the house, to remember to tell you about the strange and wonderful things that have happened in your absence. When a whole day has passed, I worry and try to reach you but your phone is dead. You always needed me to remind you where you put your charger in any case, so I don’t pay this much attention. If something had happened – someone would’ve surely told me. I think of the people we both know and realize this is not necessarily the case.

I am not a part of your real life. There was a time, when we first met, that I would think about you dying and get full-blown panic attacks when I realized no one would call to notify me. You were always good at keeping your lives separate, compartmentalized, divided. Still, there seemed to be no space to fit me in, even when I agreed to be stuck into a drawer.

A week passes. I stop writing notes, and write long letters in my journal instead. One day I love you, and want you back. The other I’m grand on my own – really – I’m much better off. By the third day I’m only sad and lost and disappointed. But I won’t be the first to break the silence, because if nothing, this is the one lesson you have taught me. Don’t be the first to yield, you said. Don’t be the first to care.

I never realized you were talking from experience.

It’s been a month. Then two. I still devote a couple of sentences to your disappearance every day, because even the lack of you seems somehow more important than all the other things I actually do have. I imagine what you might be doing, how you might be living. How are you taking the surge of spring that’s taken over the city? Do you go for long walks, or are you far too busy at the moment? Have you found someone else to keep your bed warm and kiss your back before you fall asleep? Does she mind that you always turn away once the light is off? Or are you alone, and glad to be so, after the pain, after winter, after me?

It’s summer. I’ve come back from a vacation and I’m a bit too tanned. Burnt to a crisp would perhaps better fit the description. In a moment of carelessness, I stop by a local haunt for some cheap beer and soothingly unobtrusive music. I stand by the bar, and see you on the other side of the room casually leaning over the table and explaining something or other to your cronies. I make a nervous tic motion with my whole upper body, a mid-action aborted greeting. You don’t even nod to say hello or acknowledge my existence. You look away and keep talking. Feeling incredibly silly and overly conscious of my loneliness and my red, flaky nose, I turn away and gulp the beer down as fast as possible. Having had my fair share of practice with you, it’s done in no time.

Against all better judgement, I have to steal another glance in your general direction as I leave the bar. Our eyes meet for the second time and I think you wink at me, but I can’t be sure. Even if I was, it would be an atom in a forest of too little, a millisecond in a decade of too late.

Game over. No going back now. When I come home, my sentimental streak doesn’t leave me be so I take out your letters, my notes, the journals I’ve used like Ouija boards to communicate when you cut me off for no apparent reason. I re-read them meticulously. After the long journey through a half year’s heartbreak fueled by a couple more beers, I find I still can’t decide whether I was glad to see you, or if I’d rather you were dead.

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