On Goodbyes

Written by Mike Parish, Illustrated by Dan Tarnowski
On Goodbyes

I’ve never been one for goodbyes. Saying goodbye can be a sad thing to do but I don’t think it always needs to carry the air of permanence that it does. Even when a person dies, we say goodbye to their body but not necessarily to them. True, they are no longer physically around and they can no longer be talked to or hung out with, but their presence lingers, especially in our thoughts. And if it is a person we have been close to, that person has often become a big part of ourselves.

In this way, it seems that personalities can live on beyond death. It is possible that the same people who lived thousands of years ago are still living today, as their behavior and thought patterns, in some shape or form, could have survived through others. In the same way that culture survives, personalities, too, must have a chance.

Since moving to New York, I have noticed the “hustle and bustle” of the big city. Things, people, cars, trains, places, move fast. There is a sense of urgency in the air and everyone is going somewhere even if they don’t know where that somewhere is.

When I meet up with friends or walk with friends to the subway, the entire process of greeting, conversing and saying goodbye is sped up. Goodbyes can happen when I least expect it, without any warning, especially on a subway platform or right before a cab pulls up to swallow somebody. There is no time for dawdling, no reason to sit and stay. Chatting has an expiration date of only a few seconds.

I find this to be one of the city’s most contradictory traits: it would seem that more people would mean more interactions, more friends, more people to know, but the opposite can actually be true. There are more interactions on average, but everyone, unless they are with somebody they know, is alone in the city; all they have is what’s inside their head.

It is hard to meet people. Goodbyes cut quick and fast, like a sword slicing your shoulder. When people bid me well and disappear from sight, I am often left standing and staring after them, wondering where to wander next, trying to hold the shell of the person that is myself together, to keep the little that is left inside from gushing forth and spilling into the street.

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