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When I think of you, there is one image that keeps coming back to me. We are sitting in a crowded restaurant. Voices drift high and low as if in a dream. Shadows are passing, fluttering towards daily-routines and general mundaneness. We are sitting on a table across from each other. I look at my reflection on the surface of the table, waiting for your response. Your eyes find mine. They weasel through the stagnant air, goading my soul. The first time I saw you, I thought your eyes were timeless. Now I’m reminded why.
“Do you understand?” you say.
Your voice comes to me in a muffle of words. The moment feels like a cheesy ‘RomCom’—with the dialogue mitted out, the camera closes up on my teary face. My lower lip trembles. I play out a montage of our happier times in my head. With a start, the audio comes back on, and I look up at you. Our surroundings come to life again, the shadows, the voices, my reflection on the table…you. We should be happy; in normal circumstances. I start to bite my nails.
“Well….” you say, rubbing your earlobe; the thing you do when you’re in discomfort.
I tell myself that it’s my fault. I’m the one who’s holding you back. You’ve found a New Destiny in another country. I’m just sad that I can’t be part of it. And then you start to ramble, another thing you do when you’re nervous.
“It’s alright….just five years…Skype everyday…Facebook too—think of how bad our situation would be without modern-technology. You can visit…yeah, once a year maybe…just a stone’s throw away…It’s going to be alright….”
My expression is discouraging. I know how this is going to end. You’re absolutely right. In the start, there will be calls. But they’ll get further apart. By the end of the year, we’ll be lost to each other. I’ll move on with my life, even though a gaping hole sits over my chest. Finally I speak. My voice sounds unfamiliar.
“I don’t want you to do that”
You lift your eyebrows, taken aback. I swallow, trying to find the bravery to continue. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. In that moment, I swear to myself to never fall in love again.
“I don’t want you to call. Or to Skype, or any of that.”
You open your mouth in protest, but I silence you with one look.
“It’s what I want.”
There is a long pause.
“Oh” you finally remark.
Every time I look at you, my heart sinks lower. I’m at war with my emotions.
“Listen” I say, immediately drawing a couple of glances from the other customers. I’m forced to lower my voice, “I’m sorry, but I think it’s for the best. We both know that you can’t call, because it won’t happen. I don’t want us to have the ‘long-distance’ type of thing”
“But---but I’m all in for it!” you say, your eyes alight, moving your hands about as you speak, “I’m not kidding! Vancouver is really a stone’s throw away! Look at the time we spend on Facebook for example. I don’t know about you, but with me I’m looking at something like two hours? Three if I’m talking to interesting people! And that’s every day. That’s as good communication as we can get in my opinion”
I really wish you could shut-up about Facebook. You start to ramble about modern-technology, and tell me that ‘Facebook’ won’t be our only communication. By the time I’m paying attention again, you’re smiling like you’re selling a product in an infomercial.
“Are we together?” You say.
I nod mechanically.
“Remember what you told me in Niagara?” you say, “In that little souvenir-shop? You specifically told me, and I quote, “Life is like a baseball game! Either you play, or go to the bleachers”
I grin softly “I don’t understand”
“Either you play or go to the bleachers, you said that yourself!”
You smile too. We’re about to laugh together, my arm tingles as I wait for the moment. Me and you don’t laugh like most people. I know this because as I giggle, the other customers glance suspiciously in our direction. When we laugh, it’s like explosions in Hiroshima, deadly and dangerous.
“I don’t remember saying that”” I mutter.
“You’re a liar”
“Am not! You’re the one who’s always saying weird stuff. And I don’t want to be weird now, ‘cause we’re talking about serious stuff”
You nod in agreement, your face immediately sobering. Then, you take my hands in yours.
“I don’t think Canada can change what we have”
“I do” I confess, “And I don’t think I’m the first person to think like that”
Two hours later, we’re in the airport terminal, watching the listing for your flight edge closer. It’s raining outside, and I plan my day mentally---couch, get drunk, sleep. I can see you’re nervous, you keep bobbing on your knees. Your hands tighten in mine for reassurance. We look like lost sheep in a world that’s too big for us. I wonder if kissing you will worsen things.
“Did you hear they’re allowing phones in planes now?”
Around us, the world is moving. Planes are screaming against wet asphalt, then jetting off into hyperspace again. Money is being exchanged, pounds, pesos, dollars. Wi-Fi signals are scurrying invisibly over our heads. The world is moving on, as we both should.
“Yep” you say, when you realize I’m not answering, “It’s crazy right?”
In a nearby shop, I hear a Christmas jingle. It reminds me of last Christmas. We were on your couch, watching It’s A Wonderful Life. Suddenly, your perfume comes to my nose. We use the same one. It reminds us of each other when we’re apart. I wonder if you’ll still use it in Vancouver. You sigh, “…I hate airports sometimes”
I don’t answer. In my mind, I’m already working out ways to forget you. And then it happens. Your flight skips two places on the Information Display. I feel the jolt running through you. You drop your bag. I look at the display system again; Flight XV-0455. Our time has come.
You dust off your bag distractedly. I look into your eyes, desperate.
“I’ll ship your present when I get to the other side” you say, “Shipping’s a drag over there, so I’ll have to do it early”
My arms become stiff. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a mom pulling her obstreperous kid to the terminals, “You’ll get it on the plane!”
You witness this too. You smile out of the corner of your mouth.
“Are you going to be okay?”
“No” I say.
You lower your gaze, “I know”
“It’s not goodbye” you tell me, “It won’t be unless we allow it. Are you with me?’
You scratch your eyebrow, “…They tell me the bandwidth’s excellent where I’m staying. And next year you can come and I’ll show you all sorts of cool stuff. It’ll be like Niagara again!”
I shake my head. You quickly get the message.
“Er…” you say, “So I guess I’ll….see you later?’
You open your hands invitingly. For a second, I feel optimistic. I hate you for doing this.
“I’ll see you” I say, and let myself fall into your arms. I feel your warmth against my skin.
“I love you” I whisper to myself.
You let me go, and smile again. An awkward laugh escapes me. You look at your wrist, even though you don’t have a watch.
“See you later!” you say. Your flippancy is the most annoying thing about you. I watch all the people boarding Flight XV-0455-- Asians, Africans, Europeans. I wonder which one of them you’ll sit next to, and tell them about me. You take your luggage. And then you go.
I’ve never felt comfortable crying in front of people. I’ll cry at home, under the covers, with a bottle of Jameson in my hand. I don’t know what happens next. I guess for me, and millions of other people in the world, life is about to start.
When I get home, I curse, because I realize that I hadn’t cleaned the house before I left. My apartment is small, but it feels like home. The T.V is showing reruns of the Jeff Probst show. Some woman is talking about how she can’t remember the past seventeen-years of her life. My stomach growls. I quickly dash to the fridge. I place my car keys on the counter, where I can see them. Last time I’d misplaced them, I ransacked the house for two hours. My cheeks are dry from all the crying I did in the car. I wonder if anyone saw me.
In the fridge, I find a packet of mini Magnum ice-lollies, a half-eaten turkey, and some wine. I go for the wine. I plan to guzzle the whole bottle down, enough for me to black-out. I know this won’t happen, because for some reason, I can handle my liquor well. I’m just opening the wine, when someone knocks on the door. I sigh, rolling my eyes. I contemplate keeping silent, but then I remember that the keychain is removed on the door outside. I put the wine back into the fridge, “Come in!”
The door opens instantly.
It’s one of my friends, Maya. She comes as a vision in white; white boots, white coat. People say she has a good fashion sense. Frankly, I don’t understand it. Maybe it’s because I don’t understand fashion in general. Maya is with her kid, Jasper. Tears are running down his face, from the argument they must have had earlier.
“Hey there!” I say, trying to sound cheery.
“Back so soon?”
“Oh wow” she says, “I’m so sorry. But I guess these things happen right?”
I want Maya to leave. I nod impatiently.
“I came to see how you’re holding up” she says, “Jasper’s going to my sister’s. I’ve been running all over with this renovation stuff!”
Suddenly, Jasper yanks his hand away from hers. They have a mini-tug of war. It ends as Jasper sinks his teeth into her hand. She shrieks. She grabs holds of him, her car keys dropping to the floor.
“He can be so fun sometimes!” she says, “I’m so sorry for this.”
I return her car keys, “Here you go”
“I’m so sorry” she says, “I shouldn’t have brought him here”
“I bet you want to be alone” she says.
“You have no idea” I confess.
She gives me a perfect-toothed smile.
“Thought so. We’ll release you then”
To my relief, she makes her way to the door, pulling Jasper along as she goes.
“So I guess I’ll call?”
“Sure” I say.
I close the door behind her. Next time, I’ll make sure to hang up the key-chain. I hear her going down the stairs, cursing at Jasper. By the time I’m alone again, I’m too tired for the bottle of wine, or the food, or the couch, or the T.V. I decided to sleep instead. To my horror, my room smells like you. You’re somewhere in the sky by now. I wonder if you’re thinking of me.
I collapse on the bed. I’m not a heavy-sleeper, but tonight I want to sleep and never wake up. I close my eyes, and try not to think. But because I’m human, this is not possible.
The phone wakes me up. I jerk up readily. It’s dark outside, and I’m surprised that I was able to sleep for that long. I reach out my arm and grab the phone. I hope it’s you, but I have a lingering suspicion that it’s Maya again.
The voice is unfamiliar. It asks me who is speaking. I tell it my full name. It asks me if I know you. I tell it yes. It tells me that your plane, Flight XV-0455, has crashed somewhere in the North Atlantic. For a while, it feels like I’m in a movie again, only this time I can’t tell the genre. The voice tells me that some people survived. You weren’t one of them.