People Always Leave

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Another English assignment, another distressed but determined student typing tirelessly on her laptop into the early hours of the morning. Tristan had once again spent too much of the night choosing a topic, her word document filled with various introduction paragraphs. Outside, high winds struck tree branches against her window, as if the world was angry with her procrastination sins. For the fiftieth time, she snatched the wrinkled paper cowering in her backpack and read the prompt again: Analyze a literary quote, assessing its validity and connection to current or personal examples. Stuffing the paper once again in her bag, she turned back to the computer, pleading it to save her from uninspired writing. Finally, a quote provided the firewood to fuel her writer's conflagration. 'Octavio Paz once wrote; Solitude is the most profoundest fact of the human condition. Man is the only being who knows he is alone.'

Satisfied with her final introduction, she retired to the deserted kitchen looking for a midnight snack. Desperately searching the fridge, an old bottle of mayonnaise toppled from a shelf. She hated the stuff, but her father could not get enough of it. Whenever she argued its negative qualities, however, he would set off, with the passion of a preacher during the Great Awakening, on a ten minute speech about the condiment's carefree qualities and symbolism of 'a simpler time.' Tristan vividly remembered his last dialogue; or rather, she remembered how it had been interrupted by a phone call. Walking back into the kitchen, he announced his promotion to department head. Tristan had learned the farther he moved up in work, the further he drifted from his daughter. The benefits: more money for her college education, her new laptop, and apparently, her happiness. The catch: he would have to travel more. Turns out 'more' meant seven months a year. He swore the leave would be good for her, that she would thank him later. But he did not consider a few factors: she would want him to welcome her home after school, she would need him to comfort her on bad days, she would miss him. Before shutting the door, Tristan grabbed the bottle and dumped it in the trashcan as she returned to her room.

After finishing a body paragraph, she ran out of writing stamina and decided to eat time checking her e-mail. Attached to subject "L.A. Show," snapshots captured images of a young brunette onstage, performing for a cheering crowd. The sender, Stella, was the girl in the pictures, Tristan's best friend. Stella's voice reminded Tristan of sunshine; her personality, of a mouse. Last year, Tristan had forced Stella to perform 'Bleeding Love' by Leona Lewis in the school talent show, where an agent 'discovered' her talent, but Tristan took credit for discovering her as a friend long ago. When Stella was seven years old, her mother passed away in a train crash. Having recently moved into town, she had no friends, and no one noticed she missed the first day of first grade. No one except Tristan. Everyday after class, Tristan would visit her new neighbor, Stella, to make sure she was alright. They had actually joined choir together, though Tristan's voice sounded like nails on chalkboard compared to Stella's. Ironically, the two first connected from their experiences of losing loved ones. Little did they know one of them would eventually leave too, for when the opportunity knocked, Stella picked the microphone over Tristan. The day a tour bus took Stella, Tristan donned a smile, wished her best friend all the luck in the world and assured her she would be 'okay.' Whether she was jealous, selfish, or sincere, she could not be sure, but Tristan was definitely not okay. With a click of the button, she deleted the e-mail and wondered if Stella knew every deleted e-mail served as another goodbye.

Loyally, robotically typing, her head started to droop, mesmerized by the rhythmic, tap-tapping keys. Though her subconscious put up an admirable fight, she eventually lost and fell asleep, vulnerable to her boldest nightmares. A young man with a smirk on his face threw a pillow towards her head. "Don't worry 'bout a thing, little sister. Soon as I'm gone you'll be so occupied, you won't even notice." Yet his was a countenance false. Behind his playful smile, she could see the pain in his eyes. This pain, this relentless, ever-increasing agony, had manifested on October 13th. He was cruising down the street, coming home from a basketball game, when a bicyclist appeared in front of him. Too close to stop, the young bicyclist died a few hours after impact in the hospital. Tristan recalled going to the hospital to pick up her brother. He was sitting in a chair, his head buried in his arms. She had never seen him cry before. But there he was, chest heaving, tears flowing, practically gasping for air between sobs. He had been snailing at 30 mph, well within the speed limit. The bicyclist had recklessly careened down the hill at night without a helmet or reflectors. It did not matter. In his mind, he was and always would be a killer. Whenever he left the house, which was sparingly, he had to take the long route to avoid that street. Even in the safety of his own house, the guilt followed him. He had to leave. Tristan understood his decision, and truthfully, she had gotten used to the sight of close ones walking away - that is, she had gotten used to hiding her emotions. The rivers of tears had dried, leaving dusty canyons, empty hearts.

A particularly violent blast of air rattled the windows, waking up Tristan. Instead of analyzing her dream, acknowledging her grief, she stubbornly returned to typing. She refused to be left behind and kept living without them: the leavers. Tristan was not a victim; pity made her nauseous. Anyone that tried to help merely got in the way. How did she know they would not leave also? She could get on just fine by herself. Really, Tristan did not have much to miss. Before, she barely talked to her father about anything besides mayonnaise. Last year, she was getting tired of Stella's constant singing anyway. Even now, she barely wore the shoes her brother gave her. The red pair of Nikes placed facing the front door, ready to run away like its purchaser. In their presence, Tristan did not exactly shower the leavers with love. Why should anything change now?

Minutes before the deadline, she concluded her assignment and read it through with relief. The essay was essentially the longest conversation she had truly opened up in a while, and, after so much departure, she had half-expected the paper to abscond. Glancing at the clock, she carefully placed her printed product on her desk and went to bed.

When securing and strengthening relationships, you realize, at one point or another, people always leave. Leavers come in many flavors: the workers and the dreamers and the runners. Sometimes they sacrifice themselves to help you. They claim that, in the end, their absence will improve your life. But no matter what appreciation you may feel in the future, you will still feel the pain of a lost loved one. Other times they leave to follow their dreams. On one hand, they expect you to support their aspirations. On the other hand, you will wake up in the dead of night wondering their whereabouts. Still others leave to run away from their mistakes. You feel their pain, made double combined with your own. No matter why or when, their vanishing act heavily impacts the ones they love ' you.

Once you have encountered enough leavers, you will begin to harden, to bury the feelings under depression and anger. Under the superficial exoskeleton, the abandoned is drowning in the sea of loneliness, lungs gasping for companionship. It is not the tough act that keeps the abandoned afloat but another savior: hope. Hope that, although people always leave, sometimes they come back.





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