saying goodbye

You died on a Wednesday. It’d been over a year since we’d seen each other, and I wasn’t sure where things were left between us, or if we would ever see each other again.

When I got the news, I couldn’t process it. My mind didn’t jump to the last conversation we had together, or the way we fizzled out with no explanation, or even the intense anger I felt after that.

Instead, I thought about that time you took me to the ocean. You wore this crisp red flannel and tucked a cigarette behind your ear. We drove to the seaside late one night, chattering about nothing in particular.

I’d never been to this beach before, but you swore it was your favorite place in the area. We shimmied along the edge of the cliff until we finally saw the ocean and its black inky waters, where we sought refuge in this little alcove carved out of the rock.

The moonlight reflected off the water and leeched the color out of everything, leaving just our pale floating faces turned toward each other. I remember kissing you and laughing at how cold your skin was. Outside of that moment, everything paused.

A little while later, I was sitting huddled in the warmth of your car while you fiddled with the heating system under the hood of the car. You slammed the hood shut, the cigarette perched on your lower lip and the wind ruffling your shaggy blonde hair.

I don’t remember much of that night, except for the unmistakable feeling of happiness. In the chaos of growing up, becoming independent and figuring out ourselves, we found time to just enjoy one of life’s constants, spending time with someone else.

I wanted you to know that while me and some of your friends were spending time at the cliffs for your memorial last month, I thought about that moment. I hope that’s okay.

 

The sand in your pocket

It’s 3 in the afternoon right now, and I’m sitting in class learning the subtleties of French grammar. My mind is focused elsewhere, the last 24 hours a flurry of adventures. It was our attempt at experiencing Barcelona and painting a complete(ish) painting of this delicious city. I sit in grammar class, feeling remnants of Barcelona on me. The smell of salt in my hair and the Spanish sand in my right coat pocket.

My last month in Europe, I found myself in a tiny apartment in Barcelona with five of my friends who would also be leaving for the US in just a short moment. On our last day, we woke up hungover late in the morning, chattering about last nights events. I made my way into the kitchen, making French toast while someone played music in the background.

12 hours before, I was walking barefoot on the pebbly beach with my friends, looking at each shell that I picked up and thinking of all the separate moments that led up to this moment. Not a soul was on the beach, so we flung ourselves in the ocean, squealing with delight as one by one each of us ran into the chilly water, streaks of beige in the monochromatic morning. Screaming and clutching our bodies, we all ran fast as light into the salty Mediterranean Ocean. With eyes shut tight, my body hit the water, and my lungs gasped from the cold. It’s a wonderfully chilly feeling, to feel the waves carry me reassuringly back toward the shore. I turn my belly up while the blue pink sky melted colors above.

It was one of those moments you take a mental click picture for later, where you’ll always try and recreate the sensations. But no matter how hard you try, you’ll never be able to capture the moment.

When I close my eyes, I’m back on that beach, thrusting my belly up, my limbs bobbing along, and my eyes turned upward toward the inky black sky. My mouth tastes the sharp salt of the sea with every wave I float to. My ears go underwater and suddenly I lose all my senses.

By the time we get out of the water it’s Sunday morning. We walk back home, our steps flooded with the muted light of the street lamps. It’s color is very specific, a certain color you’d only find after staying up all night, causing mischief and walking barefoot in the middle of the deserted street.

When I close my eyes, I’m home

I woke up this morning and I was back in paris. I rolled out of my fluffy white twin-sized bed, the apartment deserted and silent.

“We are at the market.

– Paul and Cecile”

I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and padded barefoot into the narrow kitchen. The coffee pot sat bubbling quietly in the corner, a porcelain cup resting patiently beside it.

I poured the dark liquid gold into the cup, polished clean by the careful and steady hands of my French mother. I held the cup close to my face and breathed in the small puffs of steam rising from the cup. I dropped two sugar cubes into the cup.

Plink, plink

I stirred the cup for a moment, my eyelashes fluttering upward as something moved out of the corner of my eye.

A couple stood on the balcony across the street, raised just a touch higher than this apartment. The man wore wrinkled clothing that he had slept in, leaning backwards against the railing, his face turned to the left. A woman turned towards him, the sleeves pushed up neatly on the oversized button down she’s wearing. She rests her weight against her elbows and her hair long blonde hair catches slightly in the morning wind.

They say nothing while the man takes long and slow deliberate drags from a hand rolled cigarette. For a moment, they lock eye contact and start nodding, slowly.

I take a sip of coffee.

My gaze wanders to a lower apartment level, a paunchy middle aged man cooking in just his boxers. I see the tops of children’s heads racing round and round the kitchen, shrouded slightly by the leafy fronds of potted plants put up in an attempt at providing privacy. He leans to kiss an equally scantily dressed woman and they feel each other smiles on their faces.

After a while, I look down at the remaining dregs of coffee. I tilt the cup this way and that, noticing bits of sugar gathering at the bottom.

I place the cup back onto the matching saucer, lining up the tulip motifs and wiping the drops of coffee from the counter with my sleeve.