We walked through the sleepy terminal in somberly fitted steps full of melancholy. She was going back to New Mexico this morning. Back to school. Back to the next chapter in a life whose pages are still damp with ink and whose stories are fresh and different places. We towed her bags in a lumbering effort to prolong the trip, just a little more. The shallows full of silence were met with waves of a funny story here or a random observation there. And then we talked, on the nothing and the everything.
After checking her bags, we walked to the security checkpoint as I loosed my mental checklist for her yet again. No matter that I knew the answers to the questions, I asked anyway. She whispered check to my simple queries . . .Phone? . . check . . Charger? . . check . . She clutched at her drivers license and boarding pass, as I clutched and stumbled on the idea of what the next several months are going to feel like. The winter seemed too damn long a thing inside the moment, so I smiled it away.
When it came time to part ways, I hugged her tightly and then I kissed her and then we said our “I love you”s and then she moved away and then I let her.
I moved to my place as she took hers and then I looked back to find her moving away from me. For a time, I watched her standing there in her red coat and blue jeans and her cowgirl boots. Her hair was tossed back into a wrap, each crazy ribbon of which sings a different song. She moved along the line in her simple, elegant way until she’d made it to the checkpoint.
As I walked to the car, I thought about how I had promised myself I wasn’t going to cry this time and how I had made good on the promise, this time; despite a stray tear threatening to break that promise. I didn’t cry this time.
I kept my promise, till Exit 4.