(not) saying goodbye

I said goodbye to some friends last week. Although the words “said goodbye” put the facts in a somewhat idealized light, because truth is, I didn’t actually say goodbye to them at all. Our relationship was, at one point, a speeding car. It was fast and crazy and beautiful. It was always brand new territory and a little bit dangerous, and at the same time, the most well-worn, familiar, comfortable old sweater you’ve ever laid eyes on. There was always a wall way off in the distance, but we chose to be oblivious to it. We rationalized away any whispers of what was waiting at the end of the road. We rationalized away the fact that there was an end to the road at all. But over this past year we’ve inescapably begun to come to our senses. We’ve been slowing down, and I’ve spent the past few weeks staring wide-eyed at what I’ve spent the past few years avoiding. Last week, I felt the final jolt and realized that we’d crashed for good. But the engine is still running. And how do I twist the car keys and shut down the entire system? It’d be like pulling the plug on a child on life support. That is why I can’t say goodbye. That’s why I, ostensibly, never will.

There is a frightening number of conversations that haunt me, not because they’re bad memories, but because they’re not proper memories at all. There are so many conversations I mean to have, and I plan them out in my head, but they build up and jam and never really leave, because when it comes to actually saying the words I’ve been rehearsing for ages, I see how close we are to the road block and realize that we’re almost stopped and it’d be too awkward to say it now. I’m a slave to maintaining our status quo, even though it’s almost nonexistent now, translucent and emaciated. We are both on tightropes, and I know that our time is almost up but never in a million years will I risk doing anything that will push us off. I don’t want to be the one to actually bring everything to a halt. If it has to end, I would much rather that we wander away. No risk, no push, no fall, no finality, and absolutely no acknowledgment. Just… driving… and then slowing… then, eventually, nothing.

I wish I was okay with this. But I will never not hate myself for it. My meager years don’t provide the experience I need to know as absolute fact that I will regret this inability to say goodbye, but I can identify it as a weakness nonetheless and, like all my other shortcomings, find it hard to forgive. I know that I don’t need to forgive myself, and am eternally wonderstruck and mindblown at the mere idea, but even with the knowledge that God forgives my shortcomings, I still beat myself up over them. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. I’m not sure. Population of seven billion considered, there are very few lives that I’ll have an opportunity to positively affect, and I don’t want to waste what relationships I have making sure that we’re not anywhere near the edge. I know that couldn’t possibly be a good way to live.

But here I am, wondering what I am supposed to do next. I feel alone on this wire and paper thin. The slightest breeze could send me plummeting. One of the hardest parts of saying goodbye is not having the courage to actually say anything at all.

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