Leaving is an art, not unlike free-falling from an airplane. Sometimes you decide to jump, other times the airlock breaks open.
Either way, it’s dizzying.
The air’s too thin. The clouds soak through your tee-shirt as you tear through them, fingers splayed open like claws, your palms a paradox as they shift from hot to frigid and back again.
I am an expert, almost.
I don’t even watch the ground anymore, the vast expanse yawning as every blade of grass comes to life beneath me. Instead I count the birds, or I shut my eyes, or I retrace my steps out of the plane. It always starts the same: left. right. left. and then nothing, nothing but wind. It doesn’t whistle at that altitude – it shrieks.
Leaving situations is easy. It’s the people who are hard.
Wednesday marks the very last day at my restaurant. In an average week, I spend two fewer hours in that little building than I do in my own bed. In a pay period, I walk a bare minimum of 18 miles just to sling soup. My customers smile when they see me (some of them, anyway. enough of them.) and I ask them about their families, their cats, their plans. We joke about the orders that never change (tomatoes, really? those blood blister fruits) and they ask me to dance, or to drink, or to give them a copy of my first book. The owners laugh at all of my jokes, even the puns. Especially the puns. And my staff..
My beautiful staff. I’ll never forget the Saturday mornings we spent huddled around the fresh bread, dipping the salty scraps in rich soup. You took me to my first bar (and my second and my third). You stole cigarettes from men in the streets and laughed when I told you to put your pants back on. You told me horrible jokes, some which are still seared inside my brain. You bought me my first jello shot. You cheered for me in every relationship. You walked me home in the dark, the stars shining unnoticed overhead. You drove me home and trusted me with your cars. You listened to my stories. You helped me escape an abusive situation – you even let me cry on your shoulders when I forgot how to be a person afterward.
You’ve told me how proud you are of me.
And for all my practice, for all the experience I’ve had leaving, somehow it comes up short now.