The Last Time I Saw You: Part One

by Brenna Holeman


Antigua, Guatemala


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.


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Alyssa September 24, 2013 - 12:08 am

Love love love! You really put it out there and I totally dig that. Maybe someone might find you again with this series 🙂

Everyone wants to believe in those kind of stories!

Brenna September 24, 2013 - 1:37 am

Thank you, Alyssa! I’m really glad that you liked it.

Lauren September 24, 2013 - 3:15 am

Brenna, I love every entry on the blog, but this was amazing! I can’t wait for the next one.

Brenna September 24, 2013 - 11:53 am

Thank you Lauren, I’m so glad that you enjoyed it!

Angelica September 24, 2013 - 3:27 am

Love this so much! 🙂 Brings back memories of those I’ve also met on the road. People ask me, and to some extent I also ask myself, why I keep on getting into this kind of ‘relationships’ when I know at some point it will end. Stories like yours are the reason why. Though sometimes it makes me sad that they ended, but they also make me smile whenever I remember the motorbike rides, the temples we hiked, the islands we camped in. 🙂 Can’t wait to read more of your stories!

Brenna September 24, 2013 - 11:57 am

I totally agree. We love how we can, when we can. Thank you for your comment!

Helen September 24, 2013 - 11:00 am


Brenna September 24, 2013 - 11:54 am

Thank you…

Ali September 24, 2013 - 11:29 am

Beautifully written darling, what a great idea. I agree with Lauren, I’m looking forward to the next one too (and trying to guess who it is you’re talking about!) xx

Brenna September 24, 2013 - 11:54 am

Thank you Ali! If you can’t figure them out I’ll fill you in on Friday xx

Briana September 24, 2013 - 1:44 pm

Beautifully written. I don’t yet have any of these stories, but your accounts make me look forward to the days that I do. I have many last looks and goodbyes, but it was always centered around a move. I moved around a ton as a kid, still do, and of course goodbyes come with it. In a sappy romantically tragic moment, those are sometimes my favorites. It is in that moment that I realize just how much those people mean to me.

Yet again, beautiful writing that conveys the emotions so well.

Brenna September 24, 2013 - 5:54 pm

Thank you so much for your comment. I’m really glad that the post resonated with you, even if you haven’t had exactly the same experiences.

The Irie Explorer September 28, 2013 - 6:50 am

Very well written.

This is the beautifully tragic part of travelling that we’ve all shared at some point or another. Those last looks and final moments are infinitely moving and yet terrible at the same time.

I remember a boy I met travelling two years ago in Bruges. I remember our few nights spent together over beers and bands and long conversations. I remember our easiness with each other; our laughs and our inside jokes. I remember how he felt and how he smelled and the creases in his skin around his eyes.
I remember him walking me back to my hostel dorm room on my last night in Bruges. I remember our hugs and our kisses goodbye. I remember taking every second of that last moment in, and I remember thinking, knowing, that I would never see him again.

It’s been two years since we had those days in Bruges together… and we’ve been in a relationship for the past year and a half.

Maybe some day we may have to say our goodbyes. But not today.

Brenna September 28, 2013 - 5:12 pm

Oh, that’s a great story. I’ve also been fortunate enough to continue some of the relationships from the road to at home, but none recently (though I think that that always happens for a reason – they weren’t meant to be anything more than a travel romance). Your story is beautiful and I’m so glad that you found someone while travelling. Best of luck, and thank you for your comment!

Amy October 10, 2013 - 3:24 pm

Great, heartfelt writing Brenna. This story made me sad and glad in equal parts that I travel with my partner and have therefore never felt that kind of loss.

Brenna October 10, 2013 - 4:32 pm

Thank you, Amy. I’m glad that you enjoyed it.

When The Rain Fell - This Battered Suitcase October 24, 2013 - 10:18 am

[…] because I’ve written about it before, in a roundabout way, here, and most recently, here. I was set to write another story for this assignment but someone inspired me to share the truth […]

Hitch-Hikers Handbook December 13, 2013 - 10:28 pm

Lovely photo, Brenna! We’ve never been to Guatemala but it’s on our list 🙂
If you like photography, we’d like to invite you to participate in the next edition of our popular Travel Photography Competition. Here are the details:
Happy travels!

Brenna Holeman December 17, 2013 - 1:58 pm

Thanks a lot! I’m sure you’d love Guatemala. And thanks for the link, I’ll check it out…

The Last Time I Saw You (Part Two) - This Battered Suitcase January 11, 2014 - 9:03 am

[…] For Part One, please click here.  […]

The Last Time I Saw You (Part Three) - This Battered Suitcase February 13, 2014 - 6:03 pm

[…] For Part One, click here. […]

The Last Time I Saw You: London Edition - This Battered Suitcase May 12, 2014 - 10:27 pm

[…] For The Last Time I Saw You (Part One), click here. […]

Sukirti Gupta June 6, 2014 - 4:13 am

Its wonderful. Though you have written in a passage form, seems like a beautiful love poem. Enjoyed every word of it.

Brenna Holeman June 6, 2014 - 12:09 pm

Thank you, Sukirti!

The Last Time I Saw You: London Edition (Part Two) - This Battered Suitcase August 18, 2014 - 1:38 pm

[…] For The Last Time I Saw You, click here. […]

Nghi Dang March 13, 2016 - 3:07 pm

As everyone has said, the post was beautifully written 🙂 I cannot help my own feelings rising up reading yours stories. I did not have exactly the same things happened, but I relate to layers of emotions you were trying to peel out throughout the text, the regret not knowing it would be the last time to see someone or the connection with someone through only eyes contact 🙂 I also read other posts of this series, and I agree with you how easy it is sometimes to fall for one while travelling.

Brenna Holeman March 13, 2016 - 8:54 pm

Thank you very much for your comment, I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

Celestial Nicole March 13, 2016 - 7:14 pm

I loved this! You add the smallest details to deepen and enrich the imagery in your story! This was an awesome read!

Brenna Holeman March 13, 2016 - 8:49 pm

Thank you very much! I really appreciate it.

Annalisa July 27, 2017 - 4:31 am

Beautiful story… it reminds me of all my last goodbyes. I confess that your post let a few tears appear on my face…

Rachel September 5, 2017 - 2:25 pm

Your posts are so beautifully written and I love the honesty. I also resonate with this one in particular. I look back at moments like this from my travels and can’t help but smile. The freedom and closeness you experience with someone you’ve met in a far away world is a dream. But how do you know when it is just a travel romance vs something that might need to be explored more?

Lizzie November 16, 2017 - 5:45 pm

I love these posts so much, your writing is absolutely beautiful!


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