"I can stand here and smile vacantly, and no matter how fervid my prayers, no matter how desperate my longing, there is an ocean between us; there she will stay and starve, and here I shall walk from one street to the next..." - Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, p149
My car is still running in the pick up and drop off zone. The whole drive to the airport I was trying not to think about the fact that my passenger seat would be empty on the way home. As soon as my feet hit the pavement, after checking and re-checking the back seats for any of her stray belongings, the base of my throat constricts. We hug and I shut my eyes tightly, I tell her that I don't want to cry but as I say it I start to anyway. I'm looking at her now and she's standing on the pavement with her bags about to leave my tangible world once again. She removes herself from my space by stepping onto a tarmac, boarding her way to a place she created for herself. Ultimately I was happy for her to be leaving, she's found her place and her people across the sea. The only thing between us were kilometres, manageable ones as long as time and money are on your side. As she waved goodbye and turned on her heel, I got into my car and made a quick, decisive lane change. For some reason I thought that maybe if I got out of there quick enough the small though significantly cavernous space she left would close up without me looking.
I was reading Tropic of Cancer and finished a paragraph on page 149 and thought about the notion of 'goodbye'. I say goodbye everyday in one form or another: goodbye to my mother, goodnight to my sister, adios to that thought, au revoir to that feeling, have a nice day, see you later. They mark the end of a conversation, the parting between two people and at times provide an incentive to politely back away. Despite having spoken many a goodbye to strangers and loved ones alike, some goodbyes have been heavier than others and weigh on my mind time to time. They're ones I can play over and over again; short films on rewind. I don't know exactly why they stick, but they're there.
You see, a goodbye is a two sided instance, you're either on the giving or receiving end of one; each position possessing particular power and intention. Receiving a goodbye might come unexpectedly, sounding the collapse of something stable and whole. One might finally arrive, not surprising you because you spotted it in the distance. In other cases they simply occur without much thought behind them. Giving a goodbye may hold certain emancipation, no matter how small. It may guide you to becoming more independent and capable; to a tarmac or a station platform. Or you might look at your car keys and imagine what it would be like to not say goodbye, not a single one.
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said: "the only constant is change". He believed that opposites are necessary for life, existing unified in a system of balanced exchanges. He believes the world identifies with a constant law of change. This constant ebb and flow that is change pulses through us, sometimes urging us to say goodbye; whatever form that might take. When I turned back onto the highway that day, Heraclitus's quote dawned on me. Even though change was occurring, I'd see her again, on the flip-side of some kind of change. For now I just have to deal with the fact that goodbyes are inevitable, they come and go passed between lips, across phone lines and scribbled on note paper. And sometimes they really, really suck. I don't find the thought of that exactly comforting, but why should I expect to feel comfortable about change?