‘So that’s it, huh? You’re really leaving?’
‘I guess so.’
She wasn’t sure. Her plane was supposed to be tomorrow and she still wasn’t sure. There was doubt in her voice. Not the kind of doubt writers experienced when they sat in front of the page to try and write a piece. A different kind of doubt. The alarming kind that crept up on you before a major life-changing force was about to occur.
She was moving to London for the next 10 months or so to pursue her studies. Higher education they called it, when really it should be called farther education. Moving to another country just to get your hands on a certificate? A piece of paper? I still couldn’t understand it.
But what I couldn’t understand even more was why it was so darn hard for me to win at love. Every woman I chased and ended up falling for somehow managed to find a backdoor out of my love and back into reality.
One of them fell for another man. Another gave into her passion for music and decided to dedicate the rest of her life to it. And now this one: she was younger than me – about 3 years younger – but she had a glitter in her eyes. She had sparks and guts and a tremendous fight in her.
I wouldn’t exactly call this one wild but she had a keen sense of independence that made even older men respect her and take her seriously. She had a knack of knowing what she wanted in life and going after it all the way. She produced her own act and followed through with it.
She was a natural-born finisher. And I respected that.
In many ways we were similar, me and her. We both made sacrifices for the things we love, even if those sacrifices involved love and other people. We had no problem going through the pain of putting them aside for our personal gain and glory. But what’s glory for a bounty hunter if he has no one to share it with?
It began like any old beautiful innocent relationship. It began with light flirtations, an invitation for coffee, and more house visits after that. There were giggles here and there, a few laughs that echoed through the empty bedroom walls, and even light tap-dancing to slow music.
Those were soon followed by afternoon readings, sweet renditions of old tales and silly jokes that made us both laugh wholeheartedly. We shared opinions, discussed ideas and even indulged in drinking together.
We watched and listened to performances of live music, bowled together and exchanged books we both thought we’d missed out on.
And now she was leaving.
She was throwing away all that – throwing me away – for another shot at life. Throwing away something that could’ve developed and evolved into much more in order to thread the next chapter of her lifeline. As I stared at her blank eyes at her farewell gathering, I couldn’t help but overlook the pain and respect her choice.
Yes, her eyes were blank. Even standing there in the hot climate, in the center of the party, surrounded by the people she cared most about, friends and family members that had touched her life in so many ways, she exhibited nothing but a blank stare. And among all those folks I was the closest one to her. I stood exactly opposite from her, holding her hands, thinking it would be for the last time maybe. Going away to London will probably mean meeting better guys: guys who went to the gym and were better built, guys who had a refined accent, guys who were better read and more intellectual. It was bad enough having to compete with local men to win her over; competing with men from another continent was an entirely harder level.
So to tell her the things I wanted to say to her, the things I thought she should know, the things I only spoke a handful of times throughout my life for fear of crushing rejection was a necessary but impossible feat for me. All I could muster was a blank stare in return to hide my sadness and cowardice. I thought meeting her halfway with that stare would be enough to channel the contents of my heart to her.
But she didn’t seem to understand; her eyes gradually became looser and slid down to meet the tiled floor. Then her hands slipped away from mine – delicately, like a pair of flowers gently giving themselves away to the blowing winds – and her body backed away from mine.
She was still unsure.
But then, why go? Why leave and turn your back on all this? It was funny how people based their decisions on pain and sacrifice and sadness. They always seemed to single out the happier options, the more joyous alternatives. I had repeatedly heard that the hardest decisions to make were the right ones, but in this scenario I simply failed to understand how.
How was it that I was repeatedly denied a shot at true love? How was it that a girl like her got to walk away to possibly something better, skipping over me and the good times we’d shared together, while I was stuck here and was forced to return to my writing and my books and my bottles?
Even music couldn’t save me now. The radio playing all those quirky commercial 2000 songs we all had memorized for god-knows-what reason, songs that weren’t beautiful on their own but were somehow embellished in our thoughts from all the memories and nostalgia they recreated.
I watched her move away slowly, like a snail searching for a drop of rain on a dry ground, moving from one guest to another, saying her goodbyes. Goodbye was such a harsh and ambiguous word: there was nothing good about the act of leaving.
After finishing her rounds she came back to me. More precisely, she came back towards me. I had to be the last one she’d inflict her sorrowful and damaging words on, I had to be the last soul to witness that pain and fully immerse myself in it. The songs were still playing at their regular pitch, but somehow in my mind they became louder. She approached me again, her body got closer to mine, and I could feel that binding heat between us again.
She looked at me with her half-blank, half-full eyes this time. I returned the stare.
Here was my last chance to pour my heart out to her, to speak the things I probably will never have the opportunity to say again.
‘So that’s it, huh? You’re really leaving?’
‘I guess so.’