The Funny Ways We Say Goodbye
“So, we finally ended it,” he says. “Jane and I. We’re broken up. Officially.”
He nods. Stares at the pedestrians outside. Hides behind the sunglasses.
“We had a potato party. You know, to see things off.”
“A potato party?”
I stare at my coffee. It’s good. Somehow, I wish it wasn’t.
“I’m going to need a little more info,” I say.
“They’re delicious though, right? And they’re versatile, too. Jane and I had this thing that kept popping up in conversation. We joked about sharing a full-course meal based entirely around potatoes.”
“I guess they are pretty versatile, yeah.”
“And about a week ago, she suggested that, because the 25th would be nine months to the day since we met, plus with things coming to an end, that perhaps we should make that meal happen. So we did.”
Anniversaries that sit between years strike me as stupid. Like celebrating the halfway mark to a birthday.
You celebrate the in-between when you fear you won’t make the distance.
“Well, that’s sounds kind of nice,” I say.
“Yeah. She cooked her ass off all day Wednesday, man. There was an insane amount of food, both volume and variety — mashed potatoes, fries, mini baked potatoes, potato crisps, potato salad, potato wedges, roast potatoes, sweet potatoes, potato and leek soup, and even a fucking potato cake.”
“Is that what it’s called, in the cookbook? A Fucking Potato Cake?”
“Well, no, but it was a dessert made with mashed potatoes. Yeah, it sounds weird, but it was actually really good.”
“That’s a lot of food,” I say. “A lot of potato.”
“Amazingly, it didn’t feel like eating the same thing over and over. I think the variety of textures helped to flesh it all out.”
He glances out the window again. Stares at his coffee. Doesn’t touch it.
“Anyway,” he says, “it was her way of giving me a big send off. Something I’ll always remember.”
“I told her I’d always remember it. I meant it, too.”
“You think potatoes will always remind you of her?”
“I’m not sure, to be honest. I mean, I just love potatoes, man.” He pauses to think. “But I can see certain dishes being a fairly constant reminder of her throughout the rest of my life.”
I sometimes hate that. The idea that every time I listen to Ohashi Trio I picture a girl crying on a bridge in the winter. It bothers me that the girl was real. That she sobbed into my shoulder. That I couldn’t do anything about it.
“But I like that,” he says, “those memories. There’s nothing sad in them.” He thinks a moment. Sighs. “Of course, it’s a short path from the meal to the memory of her and then losing her, but it’s not like the other stuff. It’s not. I really think this’ll stay positive for me going forward. I really do.”
Those last three words. Sadness seeping into the memories, like a watercolor brush held too long on the canvas. How long before you notice the picture is ruined, I wonder?
Or rather, how long can you convince yourself that it’s not?
“The dinner itself,” I say. “It wasn’t sad?”
“I chose not to see anything past the meal itself. I didn’t let myself dwell on the why. I tried to just appreciate what she did for me out of love.”
“Ah. I see. That’s… nice.”
“But there was also a solid amount of denial in there. I kept refusing to acknowledge what was going on because I just didn’t want to wallow in the crushing sadness of it all.”
Funny, the way we avoid certain feelings. The way we will ourselves to feel otherwise. That kind of ignorance, denial — it’s a skill in its own right.
“Was she the same?” I ask, “Jane, I mean.”
“She kept giving me sad looks all night. When I asked her why, she looked sad and she asked if I’d forgotten our conversation a week ago — about ending it — or if I was choosing to ignore it.”
“What’d you say?”
“The real answer was neither. I just didn’t want to look at the facts too closely. I wanted to pretend it was just another night. But that got harder and harder to do as the night wore on, and it eventually dissipated entirely, giving way to all the stuff I’d been trying to avoid.”
I watch him, reliving the moment all over again, staring out the window but seeing only ghosts of the recent past.
“I just didn’t want to say goodbye,” he says.
I feel at a loss. I want to say that he shouldn’t feel bad. That you can’t help someone that won’t help themselves. That even pure, genuine love can be bad for you. That we’ll drink poison if we convince ourselves it’s love. That I’ve drunk it, too. That sometimes the best thing you can do, the only thing you can do, is simply get out.
But it’s not the time. And it might never be the time, as long as the voice is mine.
So I sip my coffee, watch the world outside, and ignore the tears behind the sunglasses. The simple act of sharing space, right now, is the greatest form of support I can give.