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I awoke in the middle of the night to find it impossible to breathe. One of my earliest memories is standing in the doorway of my family’s home, vomiting an uninteresting color of bile onto the floor moments before I was scooped up and rushed to hospital. 

My parents spent the night by my hospital bed and I recovered. They were there for me during the early morning hours of a critical day in my young life.

Asthma is something you can grow out of. Anxiety, however, is something that will live with you. On your average night, I can manage anxiety with ease. Tonight is not your average night.

I’m not the one managing it.

Kathleen has spent the long day and night teetering between emotions.

She gets on a one-way flight to Australia in four hours. A new job awaits her. The emotion is understandable. She hasn’t slept. Now that I’m with her, she doesn’t plan to sleep until she is settled on the plane. We’re walking around the block and she is holding back tears while taking quick interrupted breaths. I hold her when I think she needs it and give her space when not. She calms down after a few blocks and we make our way back to the apartment.

Her two suitcases are packed and placed by the front door. The easy part is over, packing. The hard part, saying goodbye, is still to come. Her goodbye is more to this place than it is to me. I hadn’t planned to be with her until just hours ago.

We had a relationship years ago. I would call it a relationship before calling it dating. The more vague the better, as we never discussed what was occurring.

It is telling who is by your side on a night like tonight; the final hand to let you go as you walk into a new life.

It’s hard for me to let go. I haven’t seen her in so long and now I may not ever again. It doesn’t feel like goodbye. We utter few words at the end. Social etiquette kicks in and anything verbal exchanged is all business. I wish her safe travels. Little does she know she took my virginity all those years ago. I was too embarrassed to admit it at the time. I sensed somewhere deep down that she knew. Everything was seamless back then so I never felt the need to clarify after more time passed. It didn’t matter. There is little difference between the first time with someone you love and that time also being your first ever.

An unspoken understanding of another human being is too beautiful to ruin with words.

She disappears through the security line and I return to the car. A lone bag remains for me to leave with her mother. I’ll hang onto it as long as I can.

I’m not done with her yet.