“Will I ever see you again?” I asked him, my voice quivering from the unbearable pain in my chest. I swallowed the lump in my throat, barely holding back the tears that threatened to fall down my face.
“I . . . don’t know,” he whispered, looking at the city’s landscape in front of us. He was avoiding eye contact, and I knew exactly why. One look at me, and he would want to stay; one look, and he’d never leave. One look at me, and he’d remember our days spent working and our nights spent laughing. He’d remember that we should be lying down on top of our favorite hill, gazing at the night sky like we did on days we weren’t supposed to forget. He’d remember that we were supposed to be having deep conversations about everything in life, that we were supposed to be venting about our internal conflicts, our worries, and our insecurities.
He’d remember that we were supposed to be here for each other, no matter what happens.
It was barely audible, but I could hear his ragged, uneven breaths. I knew he was crying; I knew he was hurting, hurting so very much on the inside but refused to show it. It was in the way his fists clenched as he hid his head in his arms that were propped up on his knees, sitting there pretending like he didn’t feel anything. It was in the way his lips tightened in dread at the uncertainty, begging for another alternative, another sort of fate that he could be given in order to be with me for as long as he could live.
I wanted it too. I wanted a destiny that had our names engraved in stone next to each other; some form of certainty that he would always be by my side, holding my hand and smiling down at me with an exuberance only he could ever have. I wanted a life where he would sit in front of me immersed in working, and I would glance at him whenever I wanted to without him noticing. I wanted a life where I’d proudly introduce him to all my family members and show off my engagement ring; a life where he would chase after me whenever I accidentally left something at home, and I’d thank him later on in the day when I’d call him during my break. I wanted a life where he would be the first thing I see whenever I wake up every morning and the last thing I’d see before I fall asleep; a life where on special days he’d surprise me with secret plans that end up not going as planned, not even close.
It was a life full of promise that I wanted — a life full of nothing but joy with him. But he had to go; there was nothing we could do about it, and it hurt me just as much as it hurt him.
Just as much as it hurts him, because the pain is still there, and only increased with every day that passed by knowing we’d have to part eventually. I inhaled sharply as an overwhelming wave of dread crashed onto me. I knew what was coming next, and I tried so very hard to prepare myself for it.
“Then I guess this is good-bye then,” I responded, my throat dry and my voice hoarse. I wasn’t quite sure if what I said was a question or a statement.
The air was cool and fresh, yet it felt like all the oxygen was escaping my lungs at the unbearable weight of our emotions. I wanted to scream, to cry out that he couldn’t leave, to yell at the world for being against us, but all that came out of my mouth was another shaky breath. I dared to glance at the equally broken man just arms length away from me. His entire body was shaking; I could tell he was trying his best to control himself, to fight the urge to scream just as much as I did. My chest ached painfully; he felt so far away, and the distance would only grow from that point on.
Silence. We didn’t know what to say. Or rather, we didn’t want to say anything. There was nothing left to say, except . . .
He only nodded in response. I shook my head and closed my eyes tightly; someone had to say it, and it had to happen soon. We tried so hard not to look at each other, not to feel each other skin against skin because we were already in so much pain that it was inexplicable.
But we just couldn’t do it.
We found ourselves regretfully holding on to each other in a silent embrace that screamed with agony. No, it wasn’t a good-bye embrace. It wasn’t an embrace that promised he would love me forever, or that I would love him forever — no, it was an embrace that said we would forever exist within this moment in time. It wasn’t an embrace that said everything will be alright, but an embrace that said we would be alright. Because that one embrace . . . that one embrace was full of words we couldn’t tell each other and regrets we would never forget. It was filled with all of our “what if”s that kept us up a night and our “maybe”s that we spent hours wondering about and exploring, only to brush it off like it’s nothing when we should have clung on to it as if our life depended on it. It was filled with the “almost” that was our bond; it was filled with what we could have been but no longer be. It was agony and appreciation, longing and gratitude; it was “sorry” and “it’s okay”.
It was regret, but never forget, because we would always exist somewhere, somehow, in some moment in time.
I didn’t meet his eyes that night. I didn’t see my pain he reflected tenfold, knowing it would break me more than my own sorrow did. I felt too much that I went numb, letting myself wallow in this post-despair state I couldn’t even begin to describe. I breathed deeply; it was not our fault that we were stuck in the moment. It was not our fault. I repeated that over and over in my head as I took one step, two steps, three steps away from our symbolic place on top of our hill. Four, five, six steps away from our end, and seven steps from our forever.
Inhale, exhale. Eight.
Don’t look back, I said.
Inhale, exhale. Nine.
Don’t look back.