The first time I said goodbye to you, I breathed a sigh of relief. A constricting noose had been lifted from my neck. The mosquito buzzing in my ear was gone and I could finally do things without you constantly there. I was done. I was free. I never had to see you again or speak to you again if I didn’t feel like it and I did not feel like it.
The second time I said goodbye to you, I squeezed you through a tangle of borrowed sheets before drifting off into a whiskey-infused sleep. I could still feel you on my skin, smell you in my hair, taste you on my tongue. When I woke up the next morning, you were gone and I only had a few traces of you left in my bed.
The third time I said goodbye to you, you zipped up my black and creme BCBG dress and fastened my strand of pearls around my neck, murmuring, “You look nice” as you sniffed my hair one last time before driving an hour back to where you were staying. And I stood there in my wedges thinking “How in the hell am I supposed to work a 17 hour day on two hours of sleep?”
The fourth time I said goodbye to you, I boarded a train, looked at the sign on Jury’s Inn and watched its red lights become blurry as I cried. And I cried and I cried as I stared out the window, watching the seaside turn into countryside turn into city and wondering why I had to grab your face to kiss you goodbye and had I just lost you forever?
The fifth time I said goodbye to you, you kissed me three times in front of the big Sainsbury’s as your best friend shouted “Ew” like a 13 year old boy. And I schlepped my neon peach overnight bag over my shoulder, trying my hardest not to look back at you as I rushed to make my train. This was the first time it felt like I was leaving a piece of me with you.
The sixth time I said goodbye to you, I ran out the door, trying not to vomit up the remains of the sneaky Jaegerbombs I had taken while you were outside of the club smoking cigarettes. That was the fastest I’ve ever left you. I spent my journey home sleeping on a pizza box.
The seventh time I said goodbye to you, we watched the sunset over the sea, behind the pier before you walked me to the train station. You didn’t leave my side until the minute I flipped through the turnstile and I could feel your eyes pinning me to you, a butterfly to a cork board until I boarded.
The eighth, ninth and tenth times I said goodbye to you, every time felt uncertain. We kissed outside of your house like two 16 year olds at the cinema while we waited for the taxi you called for me. And as I slid into the taxi each time and watched you standing in the doorway, I would burst into tears as though I was going to a funeral. I knew and maybe you did too, that we were on a fast train heading for disaster. Neither of us wanted to get off. Until you did.
The eleventh time I said goodbye to you, your voice crackled through the phone, alive with a secret we were about to share. A secret that we never did share because we decided it would be for the best. And I hated you again. I wanted you to have never caused me to fall for you and to grow to hate saying goodbye to you only for you to say goodbye to me in the worst way possible.
The twelfth time I said goodbye to you was through a whispery failing WhatsApp call and it filled me with hope. Your voice curled around me like a blanket on a snowy day and settled there, but instead of weighing me down, it lifted me up.
The thirteenth time I said goodbye to you was another whispered conversation over a bad internet connection. And we hung on in that awkward silence of unsaid “I love you”s, waiting for the other person to cave and say it first. And it was the thirteenth time I said goodbye to you that made me realise I am tired of saying goodbye to you. It breaks me every time, even though the goodbye isn’t permanent. The pieces of me that I found leaving myself leaving with you have taken up their permanent residence and every “See you soon” feels like a hollow loss.
If I find someone I want to spend hours with, that’s rare for me. If I find someone who can shuck away my onion skin of complex layers, that’s even rarer. Now that you’ve made me full, I know what it feels like to be empty. And it’s hard.
I love you enough to know that I don’t want to say goodbye to you anymore.