The moment you walk into the building, the dsyphoria that has been hanging around you all day drops, plummets onto your shoulders, and you stumble. Feeling like Atlas, you wave off the trip as she looks at you, concerned. You hope your smile is encouraging, but her furrowed brow is telling, and you change your expression to a grimace. Her face loses its wrinkled appearance, but her eyes linger, the green a dark stormy color. You can tell she feels it too, the agitation and anxiety. It crackles between you like charged particles, pulling you toward one another, almost begging you not to part, to stay together.
At least, that's what you like to believe.
Her mother leads the two of you to where you need to go, trying to make small talk. You laugh when she makes a joke, but it is feeble and frail, not like the loud, alive sounds you made only two days earlier.
You walk up to the counter and go through the routine. You have done this two other times now, and you ease through the motions. You are hyper-aware of her, your best friend – as she hovers behind you, her worry and sadness tingeing the air around you. You step away from the counter, paperwork and proper ticketing in your hands, and fall back to the spot where you belong. You feel relieved when she offers you a small, half-hearted smile. It is merely a quirk of the lips, but it equates to you as an agreement.
Yes, this sucks. Yes, I'm already missing you even though you're still here. No you don't have to leave. I'm not saying good bye, simply, see you later.
You can feel the tears building, pushing at the carefully constructed barriers trying to block them. You heave a deep breath, adding fortification to the dams, and the swell recedes, for now.
You have an hour and a half; the line is long. Her mother asks if you want to sit out here instead of proceeding further, and you don't hesitate in agreeing. The two of you fall into seats, while her mother does the same.
The game begins again. The very same one the two of you had started last night. The jokes return, the smiles are forced, and for just a while, your heart slows and you can pretend that you're not leaving; that the rest of the day is not going to be a depressed chain of crying and dark clouds.
Too soon, the game ends as the clock moves forward too quickly. You release a breath, declare that you should probably get going, and stand. She mirrors you, darting up, and she escorts you to the beginning of the line, her movements languid and slow. You suddenly become aware of the fact that, a little over a week ago, this building was a sign of joy and happiness. A week ago, you were excited to get here, to practically fly down the halls. Now though, you linger, wanting to prolong the inevitable.
But, you cannot stall forever. You arrive at the beginning of the line and you turn to your adopted family – the woman who had provided a roof and food and took time out of her day to pick you up and bring you back to this building, and your little sister, the girl who swooped into your life and made it instantly brighter and better. You bite your lip to fight back the tears and try to look strong, but she can see through your ruse. She stares at you, face open with unveiled sadness. One glance at her expression and your will crumbles. Now you're choking, trying to breathe.
There are people watching now. You wonder what they see. Two girls, totally different in height, hair type, and skin tone (she has the barest hint of olive, while you are pale), yet completely the same; somber expressions, eyes the exact same shade, shining with unshed tears. You are connected to each other, at least in their eyes. You could be sisters, they think to themselves, or cousins. In that moment, the sorrow that you share makes you seem identical.
You hug and thank her mother first. She replies that she loves having you and that you are always welcome to return. You smile wetly, unable to talk past the tears lodged in your throat, so you simply nod. She seems to understand.
Slowly, as if in a dream, you turn to the other person standing next to you. She is easily half a foot shorter than you, and she is looking up at you, her face unchanged from the depression of before. You stare at her for half of a second, categorizing every aspect of her face, unsure when you will get to see it again. She is doing likewise, eyes roving.
Then as if by some hidden cue, you embrace each other. The hug is tight, intense, and somehow, private. You become unaware of the world around you, and everything narrows. You are sniffling, the battle lost. The hug reaches to your core, rocking your sense of perception.
You are unsure of how long it lasts, only that the longer you hold it, the longer you can delay. But, more than that, you are simply enjoying the feeling; knowing you have a friend, someone you can get close to without worry. There is no risk; nothing is off limits, you simply are. Completely and totally, you support each other, hold each other up, stand and fight together, joke together, cry together, exist together.
You don't want this moment to end; you wish for it to last forever. However, fate has different plans, and, somehow you both sense that the time has come. The embrace tightens for half of a second before you ease apart. You are crying freely now, tears falling down your cheeks and creating small puddles on your shirt like raindrops. She is looking at you, expression somehow more depressed now.
Slowly, as if you were defusing a bomb, you separate fully. Something knifes through your heart as your hand leaves her shoulder and you're completely separated. You choke again, unable to fully form words. However, they are unnecessary. She nods once and you return it before turning and rushing away. The emotions welling inside you are too much, you need to find someplace quiet and secluded to sort through them completely. You struggle to stop the waterworks as you approach the small security kiosk, aware of the unwavering stare on your back.
Despite yourself, you glance back at her, and your hastily taped barriers almost break again. She is staring after you, her green eyes – identical in shade and deepness and perception to your own – filled to the spilling point. Still, she remains strong and doesn't shed a single tear. You envy and admire her at the same time. You know she is not of the crying type, but you cannot help but think that she is being strong for you, and you are grateful.
You make it past the first guard, and slowly unload your laptop into a bin, with your shoes, cell phone, and wallet in another. When you glance up, you are almost knocked backward when you lock eyes with her. She is standing across the security line, close enough to touch, and the tears well again. Ignoring the impulse to extend a hand, you turn toward the next security procedure.
Minutes later, you are seated on a bench, shoving your shoes onto your feet. You computer is back in your backpack, your phone in your pocket, and everything back where it belongs. You glance up periodically through misty eyes to see her standing as close as she can, on the other side of a thick pane of security glass. She raises her hand to wave and you choke on another round of sobs as you return it. Then, you grab your things and move toward your gate and the airplane that will take you to your first home.
Just before you turn the corner, you glance backward for one more look at her – your best friend – but she is gone, all sign of her disappeared. Your heart twangs painfully and you ignore the tears now trailing downwards once more. With a sign, you turn forward again beginning the long trek to your gate, keeping an eye out from the bathroom.
Seconds later, your pocket vibrates and you fish your phone out, glancing at the screen. Despite the heaviness to your movements, you smile.
Back to this. Man, this sucks.
The text is short, but it somehow conveys exactly what you're thinking. You chuckle and shake your head before tapping back a quick response.
You read my mind.
Someday soon, you will see each other again, but, until then, this will have to do. After all, most of your conversations are virtual and you're as close as can be. Nothing can change that. Not even the 1,000 miles between Kentucky and Texas.
02 April 2012