by Helina Lee
Art by Allison Li
Issue: Scintilla (Spring 2019)

The silence hangs
in this two feet space between us.
Neither of us wants to say the words first—
dreadful, chilling words,
words I never thought
I would say.

Or maybe I did.
Maybe I agreed to say them when I chose
to leave.

Let’s say something else.
Let’s say something lighter.
Something like, “I have to go to class alone now, don’t I?
I have to just “deal with it” now, don’t I?”
And then laugh and then say,
“But we’ll keep in touch, right?
This is just temporary,
But those words are even harder
to push past my tongue.
I swallow
and swallow again,
trying to open the door at my throat
as its edges melt into its frame.
My fingernails break against the melting iron,
desperate and panicked.

that has ticked by
quiet and unnoticed,
slams in my ears now
as people push past us,
heading off to a future
with each other
while I stand there—
I stand there, flinching
in the face of the inevitable, the words
wishing that we could leave together
staring, staring, staring at this person I’ve grown up with,
thinking, thinking all the things still unsaid but not saying anything,
and I’m remembering all those years—

I stumble into her arms like a child, swallowing the words,
my cold tears running into her warm skin.

She smells like my childhood,
like laughing and playing and running—
it’s okay, it’s gonna be okay, right?
I don’t have to say those words
and we don’t have to leave here. Ever.
Time will stop
for us.

But that’s not how it works and we pull apart and there are tears in my eyes and I can’t speak properly and my breathing’s irregular and I’m getting into the car and I’m waving but I don’t want to wave and we didn’t have enough time this is so unfair I don’t wanna go I don’t wanna go no the car door is closing please don’t no I don’t want—


The car turns onto the street
and I wonder how it could be
so calm, so steady.

But even if this is my final farewell,
even if this is the end—
I stare at my hands,
refusing to look out the window
at the lights, still alive.
At the people, still there.

The car speeds up and I leave,
leaving behind
those moments, those people,
those lights, those buildings
in the dark.

My last image of her is blurred
and the goodbyes are still here, in my throat.
There is no door anymore,
simply an iron wall, irreversibly sealed.

We promised ourselves that we would stay in touch.
That we would never forget.
But that’s not how it works either.

The reflection of a lamp from an overhang in the distance dimly illuminates a path that leads from the foreground.