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
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,
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.
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.
A gust of wind pulls the leaves into a waltz,
twirling down the lamplit road.
His fingers slip into mine, and his eyes ask
for one more dance. I smile
my voice catching on longing,
“One, two three,
one, two —”
The airport comes into view,
all looming gray shadows and harsh angles —
a place made of endings,
where soft things go
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.
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.
I watch him go.
For a brief second,
I almost mistake the numbness for calm.
It’s the shock of loss,
the inability to breathe.
It is something slow-moving and invisible
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