The badly rehearsed act of goodbye stretched on forever. Moments in which you’re trying to hold back tears inevitably do. You stand fidgeting, awkwardly exchanging useless speculation –
„Yes, I think you’ll probably arrive on time.“
„No, don’t worry, I’ll be fine.“
„I don’t know if you needed to reserve a seat in advance, but you’ll find out sooner or later anyway.“
I stood at the platform waving goodbye to my mother. Even though she was already inside the train, a couple of steep steps above me, she seemed unnervingly small. Memories of her from my early childhood years flashed as if projected from the past onto the window: she’d been a giant to me then, big enough for her image not to fit the whole length of the train. Looking at her then, I was – for the first time – seeing her not as I wished, but as she really was. A lady with fifty-something summers under her belt, an only daughter who’s gone away, and a sadness I will never be able to quell. Her frame was too little, bones to brittle, to carry the whole of our lives with their many disappointments and pains on her back.
Perhaps this is what time does best – makes all the things which once seemed most important diminish and shrink in size. But the process is so slow, imperceptible, you don’t notice what’s happening until the deed has been done. Time, the old trickster. I’d pleaded with it to cram as many of its fat seconds as possible into the wagons of days before my departure, and this is when it chose to answer.
I didn’t cry, though. I decided to spare her one last ounce of weight and carry the burden myself from now on. I didn’t say, couldn’t put it into words to console her, that though it seemed I had been the one doing the leaving, from this day onwards, I would always be the one getting left behind in a city in which I am nobody’s daughter.