I manage to smile until I’m walking away. After a long hug, which was our first and last, after a final high five, I still turned away with a smile. Each step that carried me away was accompanied by a deep breath, a hitch, and a small sob. The further I went, the faster the tears fell.
We’ve only known each other for three weeks. I was warned that this happens. That right when you’re moving and least expect it, you’ll meet someone and you will just click. We did. Every morning we bundled down to the gym together for the last two and a half weeks. Every morning we’ve sweat, laughed, winced, and lifted our way into better fitness. Every morning we shared our thoughts, dreams, and fears as we pounded away the minutes on the elliptical, stair stepper, or treadmill. There’s no use in asking why she had to come so late in my tenure here. The only thing I can really do is celebrate that she came into my life at all. Three weeks, a lifetime of lessons, and a mark on my soul.
I wasn’t going to say goodbye this time. I just wanted to pretend it was a normal walk on a normal day. I wanted to believe that we would do it again tomorrow. Instead we said our “see you laters” and I let the dogs pull me back to our hotel room. The tears came faster, stronger, harder this time. My face scrunched up into ugly cry mode behind my sunglasses. In the safety of my room, I let B hold me and let go of the pain of not knowing when later will be.
We weren’t normal friends. You didn’t come over for dinner, we didn’t go out for drinks, we almost never saw each other socially. It started as lunch every couple of weeks and morphed into daily walks, me with my dogs and you with your son. Those walks became my beacon of light and I’m pretty sure they’re the only reason I didn’t end up full on depressed after I quit teaching. We talked about anything from how we would fix the Air Force to how our husbands annoyed us. Step by step we built a friendship on our mutual need for adult interaction. Step by step, you walked the path that is now the mark on my soul.
I love so much of this life. The moving, the seeing new parts of the world, the adventures. But I do not love the goodbyes. I will let the tears fall, I will wash the wounds free of bitterness, and I will bear the marks of these friendships with joy.