Writing Prompt: The Goodbye
So far my writing prompts have forced me away from the norm, with tales of pirates and cops (not the same story, although that’s a thought…) and faraway places. But this week the good people at the Writers Digest forum tasked us with writing about something that should be pretty familiar: own our choices and how a single decision can make all the difference. No piratey lingo to hide behind this week I’m afraid, folks.
I’m not usually one for writing so personally, but decided to just take the plunge on this one. And don’t worry, names changed and slight artistic licence taken – just in case anyone who knows me thinks I’ve been keeping this ‘Mark’ a secret… (anyway, the secret boyfriend is next week’s prompt).
Pick one moment in your life where you had to make a tough decision—picking a college, quitting a job, going on a diet, putting a parent in a retirement home, etc. Now write about a fictional character who was faced with the same situation and choose to make the opposite decision. How did things turn out differently?
This was goodbye, but for real this time. From the outside it didn’t seem any different from the countless other goodbyes we’d shared, but we both knew that this was it. A goodbye without the promise of a sheepish hello at the other end of it. Game over.
Mark looked at me with such sorrow and then pressed me against him with trembling arms. I willed myself to remember how his skin felt against mine, his scent, even the sound of his breathing. I traced the arch of his back with my hand and wanted to mourn for every second that I let pass.
I heard Mark clear his throat and thought he might offer me kind words, but instead he just held me tighter. There was nothing for us to say that we hadn’t gone over so many times before. We both knew we were making the right decision and doing the honourable thing, but being right didn’t make it any easier. Neither of us wanted to start a relationship built on someone else’s pain and neither of us wanted to cause any more heartbreak. An indiscretion between your best friend and your girlfriend was one thing, but a serious relationship was unforgiveable. No matter how we looked at it, and for weeks we had tried, the only solution was to go back to being just friends.
We both knew there was no way that would ever happen. I’d given us an awkward month or so before we both decided to quietly fade away from each other’s lives.
I pulled away from Mark and watched him shake with tears. He didn’t try to hide his sadness, not one bit. So far I’d tried to make it easier, whatever that meant, by keeping it together as best I could, but seeing him so devastated broke me.
So I wept, not just for the man I wasn’t supposed to be in love with, but for the whole future I was closing a door on. I wept for the years we would spend crash-landing from the high of university when we would need each other more than ever. I wept for our first cluttered house with grinning pictures of us on the walls that would never exist and for the couple who would spend lazy weekends together achieving little but feeling entirely grown-up. I wept for the talk of wedding rings that I would never hear and for the future plans that would exist only in our minds and never on the canvas we had foolishly set out for ourselves. We were doomed from the start and still we jumped in.
The only thing I could manage was, “I’m sorry,” over and over again.
I apologised to Mark so many times that day and yet the thing I was the most sorry for was talking myself out of what could have been.