By Jamie, 31 July 2018 #
We used to laugh—how long it took
To say goodbye. Coats on, all set,
You chatting on as kids and I
Would start to fret and slowly creep
Towards the door, a subtle hint
That never did quite land or knock
You slightly off your charted course;
To break the spell and let us go.
And once we’d made it in the car
You’d still go on: last minute thoughts
On topics we’d not yet discussed,
Or updates on the traffic home,
Entreaties to “take care out there”
And kisses for us all in turn—
Again—and desperate attempts
To make us promise that we’d text
As soon as we got home (which slipped
Our minds the moment we set off).
You’d start to wave; gently, at first,
Then ever faster as you’d start
To edge into the road, to stay
In view the full length of the street,
Before you faded out of sight,
Still waving as you disappeared.
We’d smile to one another, glad,
Relieved, amused at our escape.
But life can play cruel tricks on us.
And when goodbye actually came
It came so fast—and all the time
We had to say farewell was weeks.
I made the children kiss your cheeks,
Reluctant as they were; pale lips,
So little like the tender, plump
And joyful source of smiles they’d known,
That used to smother them with love,
With warmth, and never letting go.
And when they’d left I tried my best
To keep you there; to chat some more,
Pretending not to see you’d gone—
Crept off unnoticed while I stalled—
And left without a backwards glance,
Denied my chance to say goodbye.
I wish that I could undelete
Those rambling voicemails, minutes long;
Go back and listen properly
To sprawling tales that you told
On hour-long phone calls every week
Instead of absent-mindedly
Half-reading emails, doing chores,
Just waiting for the time to pass
So I could feel I’d done my bit,
Could cut you off with an excuse
And wait until the next weekend
To go through the routine again.
While every month I’d get your bill,
The direct debit taunting me—
A fiver for each call I’d made.
But now I pay the monthly fee
To keep the line connected still;
And day by day I call you up
To hear your voice just one more time
(But never leave a message at the beep).
And on my way back home from work
I find I take the longer route
And slow down as I pass your door,
My window down, to catch a glimpse
And cast a backwards look; and in
The corner of the mirror hope
To see you reaching out to me,
Never letting go,
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