Clear the platters from the buffet and turn off the porch light, I still pretend the party isn’t over. When the host lets the yapping terrier out of the laundry room, I stand in the kitchen unmoved by its scrambling skid across the floor. When the hostess turns off the stereo, I whine, “I like that song.” When they both yawn and stretch and tell each other they’ll finish cleaning up in the morning, I chatter on about not remembering the last time I stayed out so late and about how they know how to throw a fantastic party and about the woman who wore the tight red pants and about the recipe for the sausage balls, and just about anything else but good night or goodbye.
Adieu, bon voyage, so long, adios, cheerio, Godspeed, toodle-oo, see-ya, au revoir, later dude, arrivederci, hasta luego, g’day mate, peace out, later alligator, after while crocodile, Namaste, tah-tah, bout ta bounce, a’ight foo, take it easy, deuces, holla, hang loose, smell ya later, see ya wouldn’t wanna be ya, hooroo, tally-ho, cheers then, catch you on the flip side, hasta la vista, g2g, kthxbi, salut, later days, auf widersehen, audi 5.0, gotta blaze, buggin’ out, get crackalackin’, time to dip out, hasta mañana, bout to elevate, getting ghost, haul tail, bonjour . . . no matter how you say it, I won’t.
Humphrey Bogart doesn’t say goodbye in Casablanca. He says, “Here’s looking at you, kid.” Jim Carrey doesn’t say goodbye in The Truman Show. He says, “Good morning, and in case I don’t see you, good afternoon, good evening and goodnight.” E.T. doesn’t say goodbye to Elliott. He says, “I’ll be right here.” They don’t say sayonara in the movies, so why should I?
I’m not suited for finality. I prefer the fade-out to farewells.
Just as no one knows the hour of His return, no one knows the hour of my departure. The Father in heaven has his reasons, and I have mine. If I revealed the designated hour for my leaving, we’d linger in the hall near the front door over see-you-next-time. We’d feel compelled to hover in the driveway, suspended indefinitely and uncomfortably by gotta-get-on-down-the-road. We’d gab awkwardly through the rolled-down car window about take-care-and-I’ll-talk-to-you-soon. I don’t have the constitution for such compulsory formalities.
That’s why, if I must go, I make my exit stealthily before dawn, before anyone wakes up. It’s why I mysteriously vaporize from the den during the climactic tension of the television show we’re watching. It’s what makes me pack up, while people are out running errands, and place a note on the coat rack.
Even when goodbye means good riddance, the gone gets to me. I spent two years too many with a boyfriend I shouldn’t have, stayed in graduate school four years past my academic peak and kept a job I didn’t enjoy three anniversaries beyond sanity, all because I choke-up on ciao.
In desperation to avoid the obvious I get hung up in my handbag looking for lipstick and glance up to suddenly and surprisingly see the end is near. I ignore it like I ignore a booger bobbing in and out of a stranger’s nostril.
Go on and wave the white tissue if you must. Shout, “Later Tater!” No matter how you say it, I won’t. It’s not in my nature or my vocabulary; not because I won’t miss you, but because I will.