We find our way through the buzzing noise and the familiar darkness rather awkwardly, as if we’re here for the first time. We take a couple of empty seats for ourselves and sit in silence. I’ve never felt at ease in parties like this; it’s never been my element and I’m betting it never will be. I would guess you feel the same even if the years have taught you how to enjoy alcohol—another thing I will never get the hang of—and overall seem better adapted in situations like this.
“So, when are you leaving?” you ask to break the ice. It’s amusing how silence can exist between two people in a place where noise is just everywhere. Even more amusing is how this silence is broken.
We’ve never discussed my impending departure before and this question is the first acknowledgement between us. There was no blame in your voice, no worry, no disappointment; it was the most casual of questions you can ask between friends.
“Not for several months more,” I reply, knowing it’s an open secret now—it’s just as I wished it to be. I want to keep this bit of news strictly on a need-to-know basis and you are among the people I’d definitely want to know anyway.
“Have you said your goodbyes? To the pets?”
“I’ve been telling Embrr but I don’t think he understands what I’m saying. I think Luna does—she seems happy lately. I’ve been telling Newton too but he’s just too old now to care.”
“That’s good enough,” you pause to chuckle at the absurdity of pets understanding human language. “Will you bring your camera with you?”
“The A6000, definitely. And most of my lenses, I guess. But unfortunately I’d have to leave my original A35 here.”
“What about your telescope?”
“Nah, too bulky.”
We have cups of water on our table. Tonight you don’t feel like drinking. We observe the crowd illuminated by nothing but the glow of the neon signs from the bars across the street, flitting through the floor-to-ceiling glass panes of the office windows. I see someone I have, frankly, been avoiding the past few months because, reasons. She makes her way through the crowd, drawing closer to where we are seated.
There was a time when this company was so small we at least knew everyone else’s names and maybe at least a vague idea of their hobbies on top of that. Now, there’s enough of us to play petty office politics like this.
I guess only time will tell whether any given change was for better or worse. I am personally not even so sure if I’m making the right decisions. I do have good reasons to leave but, perhaps of more emphasis in my mind right now, was that I also have good reasons to stay.
Ironically, I knew that these people I count as my reasons to stay will be the ones most disappointed in me if I do so. Despite all that has changed, I am leaving not because I am running away, not because this place has become stranger; I am leaving because I am running towards something.
And I am grateful to you, my friends, that I can even run towards this. We saw each other go from debating board game rules to comparing mortgages. How very grown up of us, are we sure we know what we’re doing? And yet we still amuse ourselves with cats and dogs, kittens and puppies, movies and board games. That’s…not so very grown up isn’t it?
I guess some things change and some things don’t.
And now I have come to accept that you will change further without me and that I will likewise change without you. I find a certain poetic symmetry that among the last lessons reiterated in me before I left is how inability to change is invariably fatal. But it doesn’t matter. Among the things leaving has taught me is how home is what stays with you when you leave; it is not a place you go to but a weight you carry that defines you.
Kind of…like a turtle shell.
To all my friends with whom I am constantly in change with.