Flash Fiction 2nd Place: How to Say Goodbye by Victor McConnell
The first thing you need to do is make sure you have a pair of sunglasses. Not one of those pairs where you can see through the lens. A reflective pair, the kind that hides your eyes.
You’ll want to have them on before it starts. When he asks you to take them off, all you will have to do is shake your head. He won’t know what you’re thinking.
You’ll be thinking lots of things. Like: if he touches me, I’ll slap him. Why won’t he just leave? I don’t want him here. What if my neighbors hear this conversation? What would it feel like if we hugged? And what would happen after we hugged?
Your thoughts may drift toward the banal. Is it street sweeping day? Did I park my car on the wrong side of the street? Did I take my recycling out this morning? What’s on my ‘to-do’ list? Why is he still here?
He will still be standing there, and you’ll know that he is wondering what you’re thinking. That’s where the glasses come in. Keep them on, and he won’t see. He won’t see your anger or hurt or fear. You will see his. And you won’t really like it. It will feel unfair. You’ll think that you always did like to look into his eyes but for him to ask you to take your glasses off now, given everything, just shows how dumb he is. Why won’t he just go?
The funny thing about saying goodbye is that, sometimes, you never even really say goodbye. A person, a past life, just kind of drifts away. Like a boat floating away with the tide. Not moving fast enough to really seem like it’s going anywhere. But then it’s gone entirely, as if it had never been there. Except for in the memory of those who marked where it once was.
But some goodbyes are more abrupt and dramatic. Like this one. You’ll see the way something seems to break in him as he looks at you before he gets into his car. Wasn’t he just on your porch, trying to see through your glasses? Now he’s driving away.
You’re not thinking about him, but you are. One of your selves steps inside but another one is out there in the street, screaming at him to keep driving. Another one has sprinted up the block and is standing in front of his car at the intersection, hands on his hood, telling him that you changed your mind, that he should stay.
Your house will be the same but not the same. Stay inside, you’ll tell yourself. Just stay inside. You’ll find things there.
Like the cool tile on the kitchen floor, where you can lay down and curl up and cry and try to not think about the time that your naked back was pressed against that same floor, his warm body on top of yours.