Goodbye has the Word Good in it

5 MIN READ

Photo of me taken by  Leo Aguirre

Photo of me taken by Leo Aguirre

Don’t believe the hype. Change is fucking hard.

There seems to be a strength implied in one’s ability to quit love cold turkey. Isn’t it funny how we take such elaborative measures to introduce love: fixation over what flowers to buy for the venue, a massive impersonal banquet, and guests sprinkled around the world scrambling to find last-minute rooms in the wedding block they should’ve booked months back.

Yet, when it comes time to farewell love, not even so much as a text back feels deserving. We want to glorify our ability to walk away from each other without remorse, brushing off hours’ worth of sensual archives on the cloud.

Perhaps, we think, “if they hate us it’ll be easier for them to move on.” But we know now that negative memories are more easily accessible in the brain than positive ones. If our relationship becomes associated with negative feelings, we won’t get over it sooner. Contrarily, we’ll conjure the bad feelings out of fear more often than we’d like. This explains why messy heartbreaks make us so reluctant to fall in love again.

Now if the relationship were to end elegantly, it might just blur into the normality and flow of the rest of our life. We might be able to pick up the phone two months after we split and hear a calm voice on the other end of the line. Albeit shifted and perhaps lonely, we might be surprised to learn that our ex-lovers are moving on just fine without us. We may even get a tinge of excitement when we hear they’re doing what they love with their newly freed up time.

Love ending is sad. But does it have to be bitter too?

This isn’t to generalize. The kiss of love can be just as tender as it is smothered in venom around the lips. It can leave our lives shattered in the midst of destroying all the logistics that held it together. Custody battles. The awkward questions: where do we live now? How much will it cost to break our lease? Who keeps the T.V.?

Maybe a dramatic breakup feeds our need to believe that love is larger than life. But love is a part of life. We play the roles we need to for each other, then we go back out in the world and do it again for someone else.

Goodbye has the word good in it. I don’t just share a slice of my story with you. I share the recipe. Now you can use these spices to season the rest of your life moving forward, and you’ll remember me with a smile doing it. What if love could end like that?

But it can’t. Because you hurt me. Because you chose yourself over me, over what we built or could have built together. But don’t we always choose ourselves in the end?

Even when we choose to sacrifice and suffer, do we not choose it because it serves our desire to be the victim at some level?

Goodbye has the word good in it. I told you that you were welcome in my country anytime you wanted to go because you left your mark on my land. Maybe our love drew you there, or maybe it was your hunger for life, the same one that fed our love in the beginning. I never want you to look back at me with a sour taste in your mouth.

But jealousy. People warn. Gotta protect the new lover’s ego. Can’t let the new see remnants of the old. Stash all the pictures under the bed. Gotta make them feel like they wipe out everyone from the past in comparison. Naively underestimate the stepping stone each person in our past placed for us.

Every genre of music they introduced, every joke, every meal they planned to cook that ended up in smoke. Every ice cream, nights of endured snoring and mornings spent hiding from the sun in each other’s arms. We try to diminish the memories that shaped us instead of letting them guide the person we’ve become. Our journey is shaped by the ups and downs and each lover in between.

Goodbye has the word good in it. I sat at a cafe yesterday with a freckled blue-eyed photographer fresh off the hooks of a girl he’s adored the last three years. Still bleeding, he approached me softly about his situation. I don’t know what it is about me that disarms strangers to the extent of abrupt confessions, but I enjoyed every second he was willing to share with me. The shock, the immediacy, and the elusiveness of his breakup. As so often is the case, love entered proudly through the front door of his life then decided to tip toe out through the back when he was sleeping, leaving him to piece it all together in the morning.

“Why can’t she be more decent about it?” He asks. His voice bravely climbing an octave.

That’s his burning question, you see. It’s not, “why can she stick around for me?” or “why wasn’t she willing to work it out?” No, he’s comfortable with the love running its course. What he’s not comfortable with, is how all the credits were left out at the end of the showing.

“Why can’t she be more decent about it?” Because at the end of a severed romance, communication is what restores our faith to love again.

We don’t want someone to stick around for us out of pity. We just need to know they’re happy they stuck around as long as they did. We want them to make us feel like while we may be not big enough to fit their role of ideal lover, we’ll bust out of the seams of that role for someone else.

Then they can walk away and do whatever they need to. We can look back at what we had and smirk over all the fruitful plans we made that will never come to life. And we can be okay with that. One day, we might even be able to use our outline for a story we write with someone else.

Four months ago, I left behind a two-year love story and a flat that was the closest space to a home than had been for a while. It was a stabilizing love, the kind that slows you down after dizzily spinning around in an emotional circus with magicians who’ve mastered the disappearing act. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made in my life. There was nothing wrong to point to in the relationship—not even myself. For how can we blame ourselves for not feeling what we intend to? Emotions are signals, and when we try to numb them, we crash. I was drawn to a new beginning, but dreading the road to get there. But step by step, through courtesy of our joined and separate efforts, we were able to break away from each other with maturity and grace. Looking back now, it warms me to see a degree of respect, trust, and friendship that will never expire between us. When our circles mix in public, people are in awe to find out we dated once. We are kind, and give space to preserve the other’s privacy, an acknowledgement that our story while beautiful and reminiscent, has ended. It brings me peace to know his family will continue to mention me with an upbeat tone and vice versa. It makes me proud to look back at how successful we’ve been in proving that goodbyes have the word good in them.

Farewells are just as sacred as introductions. When we are aware our love is ending, we have the power to end it however we want. We can choose to drop a bomb, grab our shit, and run in the opposite direction as fast as we can. We can tip toe silently out the backdoor and never exchange another word. We can end it on FaceTime and use distance as an excuse not to show up. But we also have the option of walking away slowly, saying what needs to be said, hearing what needs to be heard, and forgiving what needs to be forgiven before all is said and done. We can tell each other what we appreciated down to the finest details like how they folded the towels or managed to stay creative over time with gifts. We can remind them of their beauty and charm, and how excited we are for their next chapter. In other words, we can leave love as elegantly as we stepped into it.

So it is my wish to impart to you now that every goodbye can taste as sweet as the first hello, but only if we make it so.

Elsa Moreck