The things are tossed into my bags one at a time; my clothes, the frames I used to keep by our bedside, the books I used to keep on our bookshelves. Bluebell tries to climb inside, but I pick up his furry body and place him on the bed, earning a mew of complaint. As I hang the heavy luggage over my shoulders, I take one last look at the room we used to share.
My cold, slender fingers sweep the moisture out of my eyes. I don’t want to cry, not now. Not with you waiting for me at the door. The room looks bare now, only half of what it used to be. You pick up two more of my bags from the floor as we carry them down to my car, side by side but walking in silence.
When the last of my belongings are removed from the apartment we used to share, we have succeeded at erasing any traces of what we used to be. I find myself wondering if this was really necessary, as my eyes start to well up again. I wish it didn’t have to be this way, even though I chose all of this. It was never your fault, always mine.
I turn away from the car, coming face to face with you, barely inches apart. You pull me in for a hug, always the gracious one out of the two of us. I loosely wrap my arms around you, watching the cars pass our driveway over your shoulder. Bluebell weaves in between our legs, yet another thing I will be leaving behind.
When I realize we’re both stalling what is ahead, I pull out of your arms. I gently untangle my hand from your own, the tips of our fingers sliding apart.
“I guess this is goodbye,” you tell me, seeing the moment for what it is.
You are brave, you face your problems. Unlike me, I hide. I wish I was stronger.
“You couldn’t have been a better partner to me,” I say, “You’re not the reason it turned out this way, it was all me. I’m sorry I ruined this.”
“It wasn’t your fault. You did what you needed to do,” the smile you offer me is weak, looking more sad than anything, “I hope you can find happiness, wherever that may be.”
I nod in return, managing to find a few last words.
“Maybe I’ll see you again, in another time, another place. But for now, goodbye.”
I turn away from you then, climbing into my car and starting the rusty, old engine. As I drive away from the house we used to share, I don’t look back at you. Not even to catch sight of your beautiful arctic-blue eyes one last time. It’s less painful that way.
There is always a certain feeling that comes along with driving on a highway, if you were here you would know what I mean. A feeling of leaving something behind while entering something new. The feeling that comes with reluctantly driving into a new phase of your life.
As I blankly stare at the gray road ahead of me, my mind and body numb, I can’t help but revisit the memory that led to me driving away from you today. When tears fill my eyes again, I don’t bother to wipe them away. They drop onto my jacket and jeans, seeping through the material. Chilling my already icy skin.
Of all the reasons I could have decided to leave you, this seems like the most surprising.
After all, the only thing you did was save my life.
I still remember that night. I remember trudging through the thick snow up the mountain, aiming to make it to the top by noon. I remember us all starting to get dizzy-headed as we reached thinner air, our breath taken away. I remember being behind you on the rope leading us up the mountain, watching your boots as you expertly made your way to the peak.
I remember posing for pictures and holding our flag at the top, two hours after noon. Us all rushing down the mountain, struggling to make it to the bottom before the approaching storm and night hit. Hoping to be safely sheltered in heavy-duty tents when the snow warred with the mountain.
I remember night coming faster than any of us would have expected. Being at the back of the line, not likely to make it to the campsite anytime soon. Gasping for breath, my frozen limbs barely functioning. I remember you glancing back at me, the last stranded straggler on the mountain. Your eyes flitting between the path to safety and my figure that was being enveloped by the blizzard.
But most of all I remember you taking a step back up the mountain, toward me. You deciding to put your life on the line for a stranger in a matter of seconds. I’ll never forget that.
Those hours we spent huddled under a protruding section of rock, struggling to keep warm as the wind cut at our faces, you stayed by my side. Doing your best to keep me safe from everything threatening my life. When the sun came up after the longest night of our lives, we were both still there. Hearts beating, lungs filled with air.
You saved my life.
Too bad I was never able to properly repay you.
I know you never really understood why I had to leave you, no matter how much you tried. Sure, you said you understood completely, but I could see right through that. What hurt you most of all, I think, is that my departure seemed to be done without any reason. I wish I could have explained it to you better.
The truth is, after that night, I couldn’t look into your eyes without remembering everything that happened. The memories terrified me, forever trapping me in the past. No matter who you are and who I am, our story will always be one that brings tears to my eyes. That keeps me up at night whenever my mind strays to it, which is almost always.
I wish we could have met at a different time, in a different place. Where I could have introduced myself to you at work or the cafe I visit every day for lunch. Not on a mountain top where we were both fighting for our lives. I think I will stop climbing, at least for a little while. Sure, it was always both of our passions, but I don’t know if the trauma I endured was worth it.
I used to think I couldn’t live without you, and that might still be true, but I am going to try. I need to leave all this behind, even you. Maybe then I will gain room to breathe.
“𝓢𝓸𝓶𝓮𝓽𝓲𝓶𝓮𝓼 𝓵𝓮𝓽𝓽𝓲𝓷𝓰 𝓽𝓱𝓲𝓷𝓰𝓼 𝓰𝓸 𝓲𝓼 𝓪𝓷 𝓪𝓬𝓽 𝓸𝓯 𝓯𝓪𝓻 𝓰𝓻𝓮𝓪𝓽𝓮𝓻 𝓹𝓸𝔀𝓮𝓻 𝓽𝓱𝓪𝓷 𝓭𝓮𝓯𝓮𝓷𝓭𝓲𝓷𝓰 𝓸𝓻 𝓱𝓪𝓷𝓰𝓲𝓷𝓰 𝓸𝓷.” -𝓔𝓬𝓴𝓱𝓪𝓻𝓽 𝓣𝓸𝓵𝓵𝓮