This was a one-way ticket, no matter what he did, and he knew it even before they said goodbye…
/ Chicago Midway International Airport, Illinois/
He looked back a few times as he slowly walked down the security line, watching her and the column she leaned against recede into the distance. He controlled his breathing, as slowly and deliberately as he could manage, and handed his ticket and drivers’ license to the agent.
The agent glanced at him, an instant of concern wrinkling her eyes, then stamped the ticket and waved him along. One last time, he looked back… one last time he silently said goodbye to her, to his second city, to her brightly painted walls and eclectic decorations, to those cats that first avoided him and then adopted him, to an amazing series of events that for a while had him imagining the years ahead.
He clutched the handle of his suitcase with one hand, his boots with the other, and held tightly to memories as he turned again and stepped forward. He could no longer see her.
Such an abrupt ending. And despite her assurances, he knew her mind was settled, this was the last time he’d pass through these gates for her.
But giving up, for better or worse, had never been his way. Even at his angriest, even at his most wounded, he could never bring himself to close doors with any finality.
So he tried to save something, and perhaps that more than the rest burnt away anything that remained between them. He passed through the metal detector, slowly walked to his gate, texting and responding to texts with emotionless precision.
Sitting down, he glanced around at the faces of parents and children, couples and singles, all engaged in their activities of living. Right now, he felt so distant from everything, the reality of things wavering, ethereal, a mirage. He glanced back toward the security lines, imagining her walking, crying, back to her car, driving away resolutely and with great strength.
They had ripped each other apart today, not with anger but with need, and they left hollow, spent. He closed his eyes and remembered their last happy moments before boarding his plane.
He’d tried a few times more, but he knew her too well; he knew how it would end, how it had already ended, and perhaps he should’ve saved them both much anguish by nodding and walking away without a word, by keeping himself turned away from their shared happiness, by stepping off without looking back at her, without looking back at the dreams they’d shared.
This was a one-way ticket, no matter what he did, and he knew it even before they said goodbye, even before he descended toward the gates, all his strength focused on letting go.
He’d made many mistakes in his life & he’ll make many more. But he is himself, always.