I am terrible at saying goodbye. I don’t mean the physical act of it. That’s fine. A hug and a casual ‘see you later’ is easy. Rather, saying goodbye to someone for an unknown amount of time with no means to ‘undo’ the goodbye. No Ctrl + Z.
But last week I did it – and was cool with it (kind of). I was sat eating my lunch and reading Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, when a guy took a seat opposite me. A few minutes in, he started to ask me questions. First about the soup, then the book. After a stressful morning, I desperately didn’t want to be backed into a small talk corner. But, not wanting to seem impolite, I answered each time.
‘What do you think of the book so far?’ he asked.
This particular question caused something to change. Before you suggest it, it wasn’t me ‘admitting defeat’. Rather, I like talking about books. How someone relays the plot probably says a lot about them as a person. Soon, after giving him my take on the book, we were in deep conversation about my job, his job, Biff and Chip reading books, where we lived.
When it was time for me to leave, a familiar sense of panic crept up. Normally, after speaking to someone and (I use this loosely) making friends, but not finishing the conversation (like you would with, say, someone you meet on holiday), it seems right to get a name, an email address, something. But after saying goodbye, we walked in opposite directions and that was it. Gone, like the whole thing had never happened.
But later that day, perhaps for the first time, I understood that any feelings of loss were totally misplaced. The lack of a ‘forever’, or a friendship, didn’t change what had happened, nor did it make me less likely to remember it. It also reminded me, there are so many interactions waiting to be had, enjoyed, and stored in your brain – and there alone.