Everything is easier when it’s temporary, including goodbyes.
I felt this way in San Diego, leaving behind my family. I felt this way in Illinois, leaving behind Jamie and Leann. Now I feel it again in Phoenix, leaving behind a new friend of a different nature…probably exactly what you’re thinking…someone whose unexpectedness of advent and loveliness of personhood I keep trying to find another adjective for, and can only come up with “special.” Special the moment he spilled wine all over my computer, special everything since. Special in the delicate, personal way of fingers on skin. It was something I’ve always wanted and for some reason, this time, wasn’t afraid of.
Maybe because I knew I’d be leaving in two days.
Driving away from wherever I’ve been, I always feel sad. I watch the people I’m leaving behind them shrink unbearably out of my view, and wish that I could be the one for them always, that I was, for a while–companion, friend, babysitter, housekeeper, and now this.
I’m not sad for them, because I know that someone else will come along for them, who will help and comfort them better than I can. Someone who will have exactly who they need, and will stay.
I almost said “can” stay. But that would be disingenuous. Because I know that this thing I do is a choice. Just like being a Christian, or staying a virgin until marriage, is a choice. I could take the other road any time. But I won’t.
That’s the sadness I feel in leaving–the sadness of what I’ve chosen. That I can’t be what they want, or need, and I want them to have whatever they want and need. I want to make them happy and grateful and free and safe, the way I feel when I’m with them. And when I say can’t, I guess I mean won’t.
Why won’t I?
Because of something I believe, I guess. And sometimes, as wheels or wings throw them farther out of my reach, making them unbearably small in my view, I’m not exactly sure what this thing I believe is.
Last night we went dancing at the Duce, possibly the best swing dancing venue I have ever had the pleasure to attend. Better than the Spanish Ballroom, better maybe even than Cat’s Corner. We drank and danced and quickly gave up trying to learn the tranky-doo. Afterward, we sneaked into Biltmore Hotel pool and swam in our underwear. I lilted up onto my back, everything submerged but my eyes, nose, and two of my ribs. The muted whispering of the water in my ears grew a pulse as I extended my arms slowly overhead, then brought them back to my sides, fingers spread like feathers. I realized that I hadn’t been swimming in forever, and I remembered how as a kid, it was the only thing like flying. I traversed the length of the pool and back, staring up at the queen palm trees backlit in gold, and I thought,
“What right do I have to be here? I don’t do the privileges and outsize glories of my life any kind of justice. Someone else ought to be here, not this scared and distractible and often lazy little girl that I can’t stop being, no matter how I resolve or how hard I work.”
Nonetheless, it’s me that is here in this life. In those other people’s lives, it’s someone else. Maybe someone who feels just as unworthy of being in theirs as I do in mine. Maybe it’s best that way. I don’t know.
It’s me I feel sad for, when I leave. Lovely and special people like them will always attract the people who want to give them what they want. I want it to be me, and yet how can it be? I can’t give everything to everyone I fall in love with. The only thing I have enough of is the wish to do it.
What I want is to have someone tell me they would do anything for me, so I would know where to direct the everything I have to give. Yet again, I don’t want that–I can never give back enough to repay someone giving up everything for me.
I stared up at the dry darkness and traced the path of an airplane against the dry black sky, and I wondered what I was feeling. Something with equal parts sadness and happiness, strangely devoid of fear, and something of entirely its own nature that I didn’t recognize. Something mysterious. And then I thought that’s what I’m feeling. This is mystery.
These goodbyes have been so resolved, so blessedly but brutally complete. Then again, who knows? But I can’t regard them as anything but complete. Hope is like water–taking in too much will kill you, no matter how thirsty you might be.