The end: A poem

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Sean-Yuei Tseng/Staff

It’s a peculiar, particular feeling

to miss a moment before it’s over.

 

He holds my hand

tighter than usual,

so tight, it almost hurts,

but I don’t pull away.

Part of me imagines

it’d hurt more to let go.

We’re still blocks away from the restaurant,

still hours away from his flight,

but this is what feels like goodbye.

 

Over dinner, we talk about

everything,

yet nothing we want to say

makes it past the tightness of our throats.

I leave the last bite of dessert

melting in its dish,

knowing no matter how sweet it is,

the aftertaste

is too bitter for me to take.

 

When night falls around us,

a curtain call for a play

barely in its first act,

he leans his forehead against mine.

We fall in sync —

inhale, exhale

two parts of the same breath.

We stay like this for as long

as we dare,

stretching out the minutes,

hands intertwined, eyes unfocused,

with no words between his teeth

and mine clenched,

bracing for the end.

When he pulls away, I cannot breathe.

 

I stand there, suffocating on thoughts,

heart capsizing in the overflow.

My throat closes,

and in my head,

I count down the minutes

we have left.

 

Five.

 

He leads me by the hand

down the street where we first met.

Dry leaves litter the sidewalk,

crushed underfoot, our steps

keeping time as it dwindles between us.

 

Four.

 

A gust of wind pulls the leaves into a waltz,

swirling,

                 whirling,

                                     twirling down the lamplit road.

His fingers slip into mine, and his eyes ask

for one more dance. I smile

and whisper,

my voice catching on longing,

“One, two three,

one, two —”

 

Three.

 

The airport comes into view,

all looming gray shadows and harsh angles —

a place made of endings,

where soft things go

to die.

I shudder, and he mistakes it for cold,

pulling me closer.

I try in vain

to memorize the way he feels,

all at once desperate, wondering

why I never thought to do so before,

when we had more time.

 

Two.

 

It crosses my mind

that there are no such things

as happy endings.

The words contradict themselves,

paradoxical and unattainable.

We stop outside his terminal.

We are suddenly something terminal.

 

He tucks my hair behind my ear,

and I lean into his hand,

closing my eyes, holding on

for as long as I can

to the picture of him in front of me —

as if I could live this minute forever,

as if I could stop this moment from ending.

 

One.

 

I watch him go.

For a brief second,

I almost mistake the numbness for calm.

It’s not.

It’s the shock of loss,

the inability to breathe.

It is something slow-moving and invisible

and crushing,

a hollow heaviness in my bones.

 

I’m smiling when he looks back,

a last-ditch attempt

to put him at ease.

But when he disappears into the crowd,

I feel my mouth turn dry.

All of a sudden,

I am small.

I am alone.

The tears drain me,

and I walk home

empty.

 

Contact Sean Tseng at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @STWeekender24.

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