There are times I’ve said goodbye and felt sure the separation was temporary. I would say most of the goodbyes I’ve said in my life have been this way. A few months ago, I experienced for the first time, that a goodbye I had said previously had become more firm and certain than I had initially realised.
An old friend dropped me off at an airport and begrudgingly aquiesced to a kiss on the cheek after an exasperated reminder that he had promised. It was a disappointing, half-efforted gesture to aptly finish off the recent four and a half years. I was well-learned and unsurprised.
A week later, I was driven by a very different boy to an airport some 6000 miles away. He kissed me goodbye warmly and readily. He laughed when I told him no one had ever sent me off that way, declaring, “This is classic!” The contrast turned my world upside-down.
I hardly spoke to the first boy for the initial few days I was back in The States, despite the sudden uncharacteristic spike in his need for my attention. I was reeling after my return and I knew with my entirety that I could just not fill the old role he expected of me; I couldn’t stomach it.
As it turned out, the goodbye with this boy wasn’t nearly so final as I had hoped. He sought my attention endlessly. He called me and stopped by my house without warning. When I spoke to him, the distance in my voice reflected that which was in my heart. His voice, though, dripped with gloom and longing. And soon, I was filled with guilt. After all, there was not much he had done wrong in the recent month.
We went out to dinner one night and spoke of nothing. He criticized the food I ordered. I told him of a nice letter I’d received from a former friend’s father. I had been touched, but he found lines at which to jeer. He contributed nothing to the conversation and left me to talk and talk, hoping something I said would intrigue him enough to reciprocate. I had begun to resent seeing him, even in its infrequency. Whenever my memory lapsed and I began to miss him, nights like this were the cure.
In the span of three months, I avoided him; guiltfully and remorsefully took him back into my life; fucked him; and found that our disconnect was omnipresent. Together, we are broken people. There is no mending it. The space between us is resoundingly heavy. And silent.
It should be no surprise that I did not request his help upon my next trip to the airport. Although it was previously my habit to allow numerous chances for there to be some change–any change–in our interactions, I have since wisened up. I do not need to feel indebted. I have grown far, far from him. Our persons simply cannot meld. And once again the finality seems concrete.
So, here I am again. For two weeks I am free to walk and lie in warm white sand. The taste of sesame is everywhere and the deep throaty sounds of this language make me melt. I spend my nights with someone who calls me amazing. My mornings are spent sleeping peacefully, wrapped in his sheet and holding his hand. Someday, too, I will have to move on from this ambrosia. Someday soon; time is tricky.
I have said goodbye too many times this year for one person to rightly stomach. I have severed relationships of all sorts and sat with their finalities, however fitfully. Family, friends, lovers. No one has been safe from my pursuit of self-preservation. And here I am now: drinking white wine at 3am in some cafe on King George Street in Tel Aviv. Is this the reward my severances have brought me? I’m inclined to say yes.
But what now? Now I must again say goodbye to this place I associate with such personal freedom. I have never felt such a home away from home, as much as I detest the cliché. It’s not possible to come back as quickly as I have just done. So how do I say goodbye, not only to this Mediterranean sun, but to this incredible Tel Aviv boy who helped change my life?
Last time I left I knew I’d be back soon because I felt it with my whole. Now, though? Now I know well that my time away from Israel will be long. I know nothing more detailed than that. I know that the world is open to me and I’m going to explore it. The same is true for this boy, for that matter. I know that entertaining the hypotheticals–the what-ifs, the coulds and woulds, the maybes– is pointless.
Most of the time I have distinct (and usually accurate) feelings about situations like this. When I last left, I refused to say goodbye, and instead said, “see you later.” I could say the same this time around, but every time I run that scenario in my head, I interrupt myself with the harsh resonance of one word: when? And if I truly have no idea how to answer that question, in what manner do I take my leave?
But I’ve already voiced my discomfort with this. And when I asked we responded in kind: the shrug was on our lips. There is no answer. This is just what I’ve gotten myself into. Oh, Tel Aviv. You have seeped into my skin.