“On y va!”, Tommy yelled, the boat starting with a roar.
As I sat on this boat filled mostly with Martiniquais, I picked out a young couple sitting in the back. They were British. The woman had her hair cornrowed into a ponytail, a blue printed dress, and was scribbling notes in a maroon leather-bound notebook. I wondered what the woman was sketching and strained to read it, wishing to be protected by the anonymity sunglasses ostensibly provide. Alas, I had lost my only pair. The man was wearing aviators and faded jeans. His fair skin was flushed pink from the sun. The couple interacted coolly but affectionately – evidence of a relationship where the chemical passion had worn off but love remained.
I glanced back at the marina for one last look at what I was leaving behind – who I was leaving behind – and saw him talking to a mutual friend. I realized then that the image in my mind of the last time I saw him wouldn’t be of him waving goodbye or looking on as I disappeared into the horizon. It would be of him talking to another girl. I wished then I hadn’t told him it would be cliché if he watched the boat sail away.
“I’m leaving on the third. I mean, I booked my flight back to Toronto for the third,” I said during a lull in dinner.
He looked up from his meal, “What do you mean? When did you decide this?”
I felt sorry as I watched his confusion turn to hurt.
“Yesterday. It was sort of on a whim. I was just looking for flights to go home and it was really cheap, so I just jumped at the opportunity,” I said, letting the half-truth linger.
“Plus, we hadn’t really discussed what you wanted…”
The truth was that I knew his flight to home was the twenty-third and I didn’t want to be the one left behind. I wanted to go with him, but he never said he wanted me to. He knew I was trying to prove a point.
“Alyssa, I was never going to leave you here. We could have travelled together before going home. We were supposed to decide together,” he said, appearing strained.
I was surprised to see a crack in his stoicism – evidence that he did indeed care about us. It emboldened me.
“I told you what I wanted and you always wanted to put off the discussion,” I said trying not to let the quivering of my voice betray how much I wished he had said something sooner. I had wanted to punish him for failing to.
But we didn’t have that sort of relationship. We prided ourselves on not needing each other: the mere fact that two fiercely independent people wanted to be together was supposed to be more meaningful.
I realized that in trying to assert that I didn’t need him, I had just shown him I didn’t want him.
He and I had come to the beach in Shoelcher with some other assistants. I remembered from the orientation day that he was a second-time assistant, but we had never really spoken. Actually, he just didn’t speak very much. I had noted, however, that when he did speak it was because he had something to say. I longed to be like that. At the time, I filled awkward silences with the first thing that came to mind.
He was sitting on a table made of wood that had faded to grey, shirtless in blue swim trunks. I walked over and said hello.
“Hi, you alright?” he asked, like we were old friends.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I responded tentatively. I still didn’t understand why British assistants always asked if I’m okay. I thought I always looked sad or something…
Long pause. Too long. I looked down and saw specks of the beach’s volcanic sand on his feet.
“You have really nice feet for a boy,” I blurted out. First compliment I ever gave him. Pause. Long pause.
“Thanks, I think,” he said, evenly.
“I’m weird, ha.”
He laughed and flicked his eyebrows upwards as if to say, ‘No kidding.’
We left early in the morning, driving from one end of the island to the other to drop me off at the marina in Le Marin. We were tired from staying up most of night holding each other. Even after he fell asleep, I stayed up trying to memorize every scar on his arms, every curve of his face, every texture of his skin…
Traffic meant we were late so I called Tommy, operator of the Bleu et Or speedboat shuttle from Martinique to St. Lucia. Other passengers were running late too. I had to arrive in Castries in good time to get a bus to Vieux-Fort so I could catch my plane to Toronto.
He and I stood on the dock as Tommy threw my backpack into the storage compartment. I had arrived on the island seven months before with only a 60-litre backpack. I was leaving with considerably more baggage.
I twirled a curly blonde lock of his hair around my finger and laid it neatly to one side. I stroked the apple of his cheek with my thumb.
He looked down at me and smiled. “You only do that when you’re happy with me.”
“I’m always happy with you.” I hesitated then quietly said, “I love you.”
“Alyssa, I love you, too. I said I’ll come for you and I meant it,” he said.
I smiled, dismissing his bold claim. I gave him a hug and then ran to the boat.
Four months later, I received this in my inbox:
September 14, 2012
11:45 AM Depart LGW (London Gatwick)
2:45 PM Arrive YYZ (Toronto Pearson)
4 thoughts on “When It’s Not Really Goodbye”
Love this story, so well written.
Thanks! Boys, I tell ya – the right ones bring it out 😉
I love a good travel love story. Thanks for sharing!