"the last time i saw you"
The last time I saw you, we hugged goodbye at the airport. It was cold outside, a dark November morning. The air felt sharp in my lungs, like if I breathed in…
The last time I saw you, we said goodbye casually, like new friends. We were surrounded by other people, everyone hugging each other goodbye, and you and I hugged just once, brief and unfamiliar. I kissed you, a quick one, on the side of your mouth. I don’t think you were expecting it.
“Have an amazing time, whatever you end up doing,” I said to you, looking up. You were always one of the tallest in the group. You smiled at me, your eyes crinkling, but your mouth stayed tight-lipped, not showing your teeth. You nodded once, and turned to hug someone else, my last image of you being one of someone else’s embrace.
The last time I saw you, we hugged on the tube platform. I had just moved to London, and you happened to be passing through, just visiting. I remember the sound of the train as it rushed past us, thinking I could say anything to you and you probably wouldn’t hear me. We hugged for just a second too long, or maybe a few seconds. And then we separated, and looked at each other, both of us waiting for the other to do something, or say something.
We met on the backpacker trail in Central America. I was travelling on my own, but had quickly made friends with a group of people in my guesthouse. One of the guys in the group had met you at another guesthouse, and so you came along to a dinner of conch baliadas one night. You were a bit taller than me, with brown hair and grey eyes. I remember noticing your laugh, the way you had the ability to make everyone feel like the funniest person at the table. You were tanned a dark brown, and the only man at the table not wearing a singlet.
The last time I saw you, you were walking away from my flat, waving. As you turned the corner I still had a smile on my face. And then – you disappeared.
We met in a crowded east London bar over the thud of dance music and the raucous laughter of those still drinking at 3am. The next day I could barely remember your face, but knew you were tall and Scottish. I remembered giving you my number and laughed out loud; as if you’d ever call, I thought. As if you’d ever call.
The last time I saw you, I was looking down from a balcony, Juliet to your Romeo.
“Good night,” you called out.
“Good night!” I called back, even though I knew it was really goodbye. You walked away through the palm trees, headed to the beach on which we’d met.
That day had been my first day underwater as a scuba diver, and so, by the time the sun was getting low and heavy on the horizon, I was already buzzing with energy and laughter. Our dive group celebrated at the local bar, migrating to the sand as bonfires were lit, drinking cold beers and watching paper lanterns fill the sky. It was around one of those fires that I first saw you, the light flickering shades of red across your face.
“Valentin,” you offered, extending your hand. It took me aback. Today, after all was the 14th of February. “My name,” you confirmed, “is Valentin.”
The last time I saw you, you were waving, grinning, the vision of you on a motorbike disappearing over one last hill. We had spent a week on a motorbike together, sharing the road with rusty trucks and elephants. I’d grip your waist, squeeze on one side or the other to direct you. We got lost, every day, and I had never had so much fun doing so.
I met you on one of my first days on the island, under the thatched roof of a bar that served alcohol in buckets. You were ten years older than me, your laugh lines defined, your smile the kind that lit up your face, lit up mine. My hair was so long I could almost sit on it, and you placed one flower behind my ear, my left ear.
“No, no,” I laughed, taking the flower from my left and placing it behind my right. “I’m single. Single women wear flowers behind their right ears.”