Sean and I have a long history of goodbyes. We've said them everywhere: in airport lounges, in the driveways of each other's houses, in Amtrak stations, and in cars. We've said them when we were in love, when we were breaking up, when we were doing something between being in love and breaking up that I think we called "still kind of...you know, not really together, definitely seeing other people," but that still somehow warranted us catching planes across continents to see each other.
I met him when I was sixteen. Sixteen! Do you know how weird that is? I HAD BRACES. And also jeans from J.C. Penney, which I wasn't embarassed about. We met at the beach in Connecticut and I think my first words to him were "uh...here," when his hackysack (hackysack! How 1996 is that?) bounced over into my direction, and I tossed it back to him. I was in love with him from the very first second I saw him. But he was 20, and far too old for me, and it took me several more trips to the beach before we even had a conversation. At the end of the summer, right before I was due to go back to boarding school, we found ourselves at the same party. We did all the silly flirty things that people pretend they're not doing when they're flirting, like swapping shoes and punching each other. But that was the extent of it, because he had a girlfriend at the time. AND DID I TELL YOU I WAS SIXTEEN? With braces?
Needless to say, I had a crush on him for the next two years. We were only ever friends but we saw each other when I was home in Connecticut for the holidays, and in the time between, we wrote letters. Like, the real kind with stamps and stuff. This was before the Internet, before Instant Messenging, before all the 10-10 numbers and the cheap transatlantic phone plans. We wrote letters. And I kept them all.
When I was 18 and home in Connecticut for the summer, I wrote him another letter --- and in this one I told him exactly how I felt about him.
I was sick of the long telephone conversations that led us nowhere, the embarassment of mailing him lyrics and not knowing how he took them, the obsessing and the crushing and the going crazy with it all. I'm fairly sure I thought he was Jordan Catalano and I was Angela Chase. I wrote awful poetry about him and cried in the way you can only cry when you're 18 and you've just read Sylvia Plath for the first time. I made my mother read the letter first and then she drove me to his house to put it in his mailbox. And then that night I had to go and see my sister Susie and my brother Luke in an amateur production of Mary Poppins. I've never hated Mary Poppins so much in my life. (By the way, Susie was Mr. Banks. Yes, MISTER, I said. She wore a fake mustache. But she was awesome. Luke was too, though he sang in a very high-pitched voice and wore a red pajama suit. Because he was Michael Banks. SUSIE WAS HIS FATHER.)
Sean called the next day. He felt the same way. There was a multi-hour phone conversation, many confessions, and a whole chunk of my diary that was taken up with recounting the whole thing (with way, way too many exclamation points.) Our first date was to see G.I. Jane. (Excellent choice on that one, Sean, a real first date movie.) He nearly drove us into oncoming traffic, because we were looking at some fireworks. And we were so nervous. We dated for a year, and then we broke up when I went to university in London. And then we had a weird two years, where we saw other people and professed not to be together anymore, but both made several trips to see each other in different countries anyway. There were so many goodbyes in those two years. And I never knew how to feel about them.
During my last year of university, we decided we wanted to be together. Exclusively. It was a relief --- I was entangled with a stockbroker who was too short and who lived in Notting Hill and whom I didn't really like enough. I'd only ever wanted Sean anyway. We dated long distance for a year, visiting each other at every opportunity. The airport departure lounge became the saddest place in the world.
In 2002, right after I'd graduated from university in London, I moved to San Diego to live with him. I arrived in California with 11 boxes of stuff. We left for Charleston, six months later, after he was transferred there for a job, with a whole U-haul full of belongings. There were more than 11 boxes---there were hundreds and hundreds. I didn't know how I'd accumulated so much so fast.
Tomorrow I'm saying goodbye to him again. It's only for two weeks but it's still another goodbye. I'm saying it to my brilliant, talented, kind, sweet, and hottie boombalottie Sean, who always waves for as long as he can from the departure gate. And who only stops waving when he can't see me anymore.