Perhaps I was even excited about leaving. I told him I wanted to leave, wanted to see the world. I need to get a life, I said, a proper one. Consciously, I suggested that I did not like my life here. He didn’t respond to that like I was hoping he would. Eventually, we moved on to talking about other things.
We always had a lot to talk about. But neither of us was stranger to the fact that silence was preferable at that moment. Nevertheless we kept talking, trying to somehow tease our consciousness away from the beckoning turning point in our lives.
“It wouldn’t be so bad”, I suddenly said, “we could Skype.”
He was quiet. I swear I could hear him breathing as we made our way through traffic, thinking. I laughed a little, probably out of nervousness. I needed to hear him say something, anything, so I could assume he still hoped things would change. I hoped things would change. But I probably was not making that very clear back then.
I had to resort to stealing glances at him; I couldn’t hold his gaze for longer than a few seconds. He walked with both his hands in his pockets, head slightly stooped, perspiration settling over his brows and upper lip. But I knew he was looking at me, at my face and into my eyes, looking to find something I was half-sure I didn’t possess.
He said nothing.
Late in the evening the next day, I finally realized that I could leave if I wanted to and I probably might. I had gotten accepted to study Law at a college, a few thousand miles away. Before I had time to decide whether it was a good idea, I informed him about it. Admittedly, I was excited. Because while I fantasized about life away from home, there was a part of me that wasn’t a cent percent sure that I’d make it. And the same part of me hoped that I wouldn’t, which made all the fantasizing, even if a little, harmless.
He reacted with surprising enthusiasm. Well, surprising after his approach to the whole idea just the other day. He told me all about how happy he was for me and wished me a good life ahead. There was a hint of finality to his reply. I was suddenly disappointed.
I thanked him and expressed a little more excitement. He returned the favor.
“I don’t want to leave.”
Quiet. I could hear him breathing again, at the other end of the line. Heavy breathing, rapid breathing. I knew his next reply would be calculated, if at all.
“You will”, he said, “I’m fine with that. I’ve..accepted that.”
He meant that he had gone through a phase where he wasn’t fine with me leaving. That was good to know. But I didn’t want him to be fine with it eventually. Because I didn’t want to leave.
“Good”, I said.
We went out again the following day. We were both stealing glances at each other. We were both conscious of the other watching, observing, waiting. We separated. I separated. I couldn’t hang around him anymore, too many voices in my head.
I traveled around the city, went to the mall. I looked around at all the people I didn’t know, people who didn’t matter to me, people with completely different lives. In effect, it was like a smaller version of that world I wanted to see so bad. I missed him a little bit.
I don’t like crowds, I don’t like too many people silently judging me. With him, I’m confident enough to not care about most of the judgements. I really did not want to leave.
I was waiting for the train back home, when he called out my name. I turned to hold his gaze, I decided I was going to. But he turned away as the train pulled in. I hurried over and smiled at his girlfriend.
“I heard you got accepted. Congratulations”, she smiled back. I like her when she smiles. It’s rarely calculated, unlike most others.
“First on the list”, he added.
I smiled at nothing in particular. I didn’t want to leave.
We boarded the train, his girlfriend and I. He smiled and waved good bye to her. Just before the doors shut, he looked at me and held my gaze even if for the shortest while. That’s all I needed. As the train pulled out and he got lost in the crowd, I knew I was leaving.
But I didn’t want to.