Two Leave, One Stays

Written by Winona Wardwell
Art by Alleksana

The first leaves quietly. She departs in the humid summer heat, equal parts excited to begin a new adventure and terrified to leave an old one. I oversleep and almost miss our goodbye. She knocks on my door and I let her in, still in my pajamas. I set out her favorite pastries all cut in half, the ones from the overpriced store down the street. “You didn’t have to,” she says with a smile on her face. I just smile in return. I rub my eyes, and wish I was not so tired. I ask about her packing, I make fun of her for packing too much. She hands me a hat of hers that I have always loved, a strange parting gift. I want to explain to her how much I will miss her, or how secretly I am mad that she is leaving me behind, but I don’t say it. That has never been our kind of friendship. We don’t know how to say goodbye, we settle for an awkward hug, our arms hang loosely around eachothers’ abdomen, we were never the type to hug. “See you in a year,” I say. She nods, her face unreadable. The day she leaves is bright, a few clouds in the sky, a good beach day. I wish I had invited her to the beach just one more time. Instead, I watch her walk down my driveway, like I have watched her do hundreds of times before and I know a year is a short time in comparison to a life but for some reason it feels like we are saying goodbye forever.

The second leaves loudly, just as the summer starts to fade into a peaceful quiet fall, as school starts, and the college students filter back into the city. For weeks she frets on what to pack, what she has to buy, and what will happen. I arrange a picnic on a hill, and we watch the sunset and try to find the words that describe how we feel. The evening is perfect, and again I find myself wishing we had done this more. We sit on the hill too long, past when the families leave, and soon only teenagers are left, playing music loudly from their cars.  I tell her a lot of things I wish I had been brave enough to tell the first. She reassures me as she has always done, yet there is an uneasiness in her tone that I hadn’t sensed before. I can read the second better than the first. She is nervous, and I don’t know what to tell her. I have no advice to give, I feel like I have fallen short as a friend. We leave the hill when all we can hear are crickets and the mosquitoes start biting our legs. Our goodbye is long and drawn out. She hugs me tightly, squeezing my shoulders. She reminds me not to forget about her, I scoff, “Of course not, I love you.” Displays of affection were always easy with her. “See you in four months,” I say, before turning and walking away. 

Now fall is approaching. I watch the seasons change and the city settle into a quiet rhythm as I always have. I try to resist change, yet slowly I fall into a new pattern without two friends that I once thought I could live without. There it is somewhat disheartening that the world moves on, this concept has always been hard for me to grasp, it seems like slow movement, and then one takes a moment for granted and just like that everything changes. What was once is not anymore.