The last time I saw you, you were standing at the foot of the escalator. My suitcase had gotten stuck in the step’s grooves, and I fumbled with it and laughed. I watched you, and we kept waving, waving, until I got to the top and had to start walking. I would have stayed at the top a little bit longer just to watch you, you in your blue sweater and your mop of hair, your perfect American smile.
There was something about our young love that was doomed from the start. Perhaps, because of its very nature, its youth and naivety, it was never destined to grow old. Still we travelled through cities we couldn’t pronounce, ate seafood fresh from the blue waters of the Mediterranean. We made love all over Europe, needy, urgent sex, cheap wine on our breath. We were trying to figure out what to do with our lives, and laid awake at night in foreign sheets and foreign sands, whispering secrets and lies. Your ambitions went one way, mine another, but caught in love’s clutches we told each other that we could make our futures intersect.
I left you in that airport on a sunny autumn day, the last time I saw you. You would go home by train, back to your apartment on the river, the white flowers you gave me now dried on the windowsill. I would fly over the ocean, already imagining the letters I would write, the early morning phone calls, the next visit. If I had known I would never see you again, I might have turned around at the top of the escalator, ran back down for one more kiss, one more look, though maybe not, probably not.
The last time I saw you, you were walking away from me, your backpack blocking my view of the back of your shaved head. The sun was shining through the doors just so, silhouetting you, but I could still make out your arms, your legs. You had hugged me so tight I thought I would break, and I had concentrated on the raindrops leaking through the roof; I feared if I didn’t keep focus, I really would shatter. I was losing my breath, from the hug or the meaning of it, I’m not sure.
We had met on another rainy night weeks ago, watching a volcano erupt. The whole hostel had crowded around to watch the lava pour down the mountainside, the volcano itself camouflaged into the black night. All we could see was the red trail, and lightning. It was mad, apocalyptic. You stood away from the crowd, your hood up, smoking a cigarette, covered in tattoos, I could see that much. There were other backpackers all around, packs of Kiwis and Aussies drinking too much whiskey and saying too many regrettable things. I asked you something, I don’t recall what. We talked for six hours after those first words, taking turns buying bottles of Guatemalan beer. People joined us but quickly left – we were in our own world, and nobody else belonged.
And so it was, every single day and night after. We never touched, respectful of the one who waited for you thousands of miles away. Instead, you watched my mouth as I laughed, I watched your hands as you shuffled the cards, we said everything we needed to just looking at each other. When it was time for you to go, you brushed my hair behind my ear and said, just once, “I’ll stay.” When I shook my head no, you turned away from me, took the stairs two at a time. I didn’t even have your email address. I wasn’t even sure of your full name, but it was something generic, something I could never find. I thought I’d never see you again.
You were waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs, your clothes wet. You had left and gone into the rain, but came back. You said only my name. We kissed, a sad kiss, a short kiss, and when you turned and walked away I could feel the dampness of the rain on my clothes from where you held me. I thought maybe you’d come back once more, that maybe I shouldn’t have said no, but my clothes dried, and the rain stopped, and you never returned. I’m still not sure if it’s the last time I’ll ever see you.