You get into your car and drive. Mile after mile. Left turn then a right. You feel the tension pulling you backward, a slow, forceful tug telling you to turn around, to gobble up your goodbyes, to stay.
Part of you wants to stay. Staying is easy. Staying is safe. But a storm recently took out a bridge, which took out some electric lines, which caused the other bridge to close, and it’s hard to ignore the gaping symbolism of it all, to view the place without the storm.
So you left. You are always leaving.
You remember your first seasonal-life goodbyes. Those were hard. It was the first time you’d lived and worked with the same people, where you existed in a microcosm only the seven of you could understand. You get used to it, one of your colleagues told you when you complained of sharp endings. You thought your soft heart would never get used to it, but in a strange way it has. Endings are commonplace in your world. People and places, they come and go.
And then there was this season. This season that was really a year and a half in the making. This russet-hued autumn in the southern Adirondacks. Much of it blurs together. A revolving door of children, a pantheon of familiar games. You taught the same program over and over until it was all mindless reflex. None of that sticks out.
What sticks out are the people. Your coworkers. Friends. How you could go to your friends’ house, take off your shoes, eat pie that wasn’t yours, and share the intricacies of your day to listening, understanding ears.
Because that’s something you miss. That’s something you’re insecure about. If Hugh Everett was right and our lives are forever splintering into parallel universes, then in one of those lives you never left Pittsburgh. You have a well-furnished apartment and a job and a circle of friends that gather for potlucks bringing homemade breads and casseroles and pies. Community. You miss that. That is something constant motion deprives you of.
But this last season you had it. You had them. You’d gather in the window booth of the bar eating sweet potato fries while people discussed job interviews and grad school and that one annoying teacher who was woefully unhelpful. You rooted each other on, mocked each other relentlessly, and comforted each other when the storm clouds gathered. It felt mature and youthful all at once.
And those are the strings that pull at you as you drive away, pavement disappearing beneath your tires. It’s the mountains, yes. It’s the 32.6 miles of lake that holds 550 billion gallons of water, sure. But it’s the people who laughed at your jokes, and listened to your complaints, and played songs from Titanic for you. You felt it this season, that buzzing of hive of community.
And as you drive away, you are both sad and hopeful–isn’t that what all goodbyes are comprised of?–because you are leaving, but there is future ahead, and it is good and bright and wonderful, and you know there will be others out there who will love you in that gentle, tireless way that friends do. They are out there. You will find them.