Tuesday, September 17, 2013

On Saying Goodbye

And I still can't seem to find/
A simple way to say goodbye.
I'm not the kind for regret.
Was there something I wanted to forget?”

-       Say Goodbye, by Girlyman

I’ve never been very good at saying goodbye.   And I’m not just talking about the big, meaningful goodbyes (though I’ll get to those in just a second), but also the small everyday goodbyes.  Seriously, have you ever tried to get off the phone with me? Or tried to leave a party when I was there? If you have, you know. The unforgiving timetable of the CTA is the single reason I leave Tait’s in less than 20 minutes from declaration of intent to actually walking out the door. 

So why the difficulty?  With the small ones I think it’s that there’s always so much more I want to say.  I know, you’re all shocked that I would want to talk some more. Still, those little getting off the phone moments always seem to make me remember every single thing that I had filed away to mention to whoever I am talking to, no matter how long we’ve just spoken.  Seeing others leave a social gathering is sad to me because it means it’s just that much closer to being over.  Hey, why not prolong it for a few minutes by drawing the leaver into a conversation? This is my general thinking. 

Time for the obvious: I am a social person.  I don’t like being alone all that much.  I can do it, and I can find the disconnection beneficial sometimes, but that is not my usual state.  I prefer to be around people, connecting with them, learning from them, and hopefully sharing something new with them. You may already know this, but saying goodbye is the end of this type of interaction on the small scale. And so I avoid it if possible.

Big goodbyes are different.  I had a series of big goodbyes when I moved to Chicago two years ago. Some of those were fun filled moments with laughter and memories that make me smile still.  Others were a little uncomfortable as neither of us knew what to say, but knew that it was kind of a big moment and it need to be observed.  And then there were the sad ones, where the enormity of not having this person in your life everyday clutches at your heart and won’t let go.  Interestingly, I had 3 of that last kind, but they were all incredibly different in the expression of the sadness.  One was a conversation perched on the wall down the street from Rojo that seemed to go on for hours, where sentences were interrupted by sobs the whole time.  Another was actually wordless, but all that we were both thinking and feeling were expressed in a hug.  That one surprised me.  I didn’t think I would get so emotional saying goodbye to that particular person.  But once we were there, I didn’t want to let go. Didn’t want to let go of the smiles, tears, memories, history, not any of it.  The third big goodbye that really got me was one where nobody cried but the sad words of goodbye carried the same weight as if it were a funeral. 

With the big goodbyes, there is talk of texting, facebook chat, future visits, and all of that.  And frequently these things happen, even if they don’t happen as often as you’d like.  Some people who were closer than close simply fade away without the proximity.  The ones who are the most important are now gone, and it is hard to know what to do about it.  Things change, people move on, and it is never the same.  Accepting that is hard and hurts so much, but we can’t talk of it because we don’t want to be selfish. 

When saying goodbye is hardest for me is when I feel like there’s more left for the relationship that the change in circumstances will prevent from coming to fruition. That somehow, if only we’d have met years earlier we might have been able to see the friendship all the way to its natural conclusion.  Instead, we are faced with that great void of not knowing what could have been.  I’ve felt this way about boyfriends, casual acquaintances, best friends, family members, all of it.  And that’s where I am today. 

A very good friend is moving to Texas this week.  I’m excited for him because his moving is born of the same need to live his life that made me move to Chicago a couple of years ago.  No matter how much happiness you have around you, sometimes, there’s something else going on inside that requires leaving.  I get that 100%.  But I’m also sad because we’ve only started getting close in the last few months, and now he’ll be gone.  I have had some of the best times of my life in Chicago so far with him, from watching the Drag Race Tour at Roscoe’s to having the best worst trip to Six Flags ever.  But more than that, I will miss talking to him.  And I know, we can still talk, but not in person, not as often.  My friend has as much to say as I do, loves the art of conversation as much as I do. Our conversations are tangent filled, revelatory, funny, poignant, and more than anything…comfortable.  I will miss the ease we’ve had in talking about anything and everything over the last few months.  That kind of thing doesn’t translate to texts or even phone conversations.  So I’ll miss the conversation, the good times, and most of all the friendship that could have been. 

Safe travels, Michael. Chicago will miss you.

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