Goodbyes are injuries. Envisioning goodbye hurts, speaking farewell words and embracing hurts. Preparing to say goodbye is the slow peel of a band-aid.
I’m hastening to wring every last drop of memory out of going-away get-togethers with friends. I’m saying progressive goodbyes to Timmy and Rachel, each weekend visit to Incheon closer to the finale. Goodbyes to Alisha and Liz and Kristi and JQ and everyone an explosive BANG scheduled for a certain time, a certain day: a count down. I’m handing my jiu jitsu instructor my last monthly payment, and I unravel from anticipating that place, those people becoming stories my people back in the U.S. will not understand. Black belt master Hyung Gal Lee. Byeong Ho, Chicken Face, Guk Jin, Sang Hyeok, Min Chae, Eric, Luke. Shin Gu. Beautiful characters in my head.
Goodbyes are heavy like hoisting swollen suitcases into an overhead compartment, heavy like the Daegu air in July. I admire those who move from place to place and have the abandon to invest in people, knowing they will all some day vanish but for Internet reminders that they’re living on without you. My conversations with God dissolve from “please grant me friends in this new place” to “please don’t let this be the last time I see them.”
I want to live a thousand lives at once, so I can explore every friendship. But that’s the sacrifice of travel, of short-term, of meeting hikers on Mount Hallasan who fed me granola bars and wondered at my toe-shoes and knowing I’ll only see these strangers once in my life. It’s the pain drawn out over days and beaches and mountain sides, over cafes and bingsu and karaoke rooms, over classrooms and barbecue and friends’ couches.
It leaves me breathless, my heart letting go, like sand through my fingers.