goodbye, Max

About a year ago…

On the final night that we stayed with Max and his family, I took the children to a local attraction while Max and his wife prepared their children for bed. For them, it was back to school as normal.

When we arrived back at the house, Max had already gone to bed, as he had to be to work very early in the morning. I asked his wife to make sure he said good-bye in the morning. It would be the last I’d see of him for who knew how long.

Sure enough, at some ungodly hour that seemed still the middle of the night to me, I heard stirring in the house as Max woke and began readying for work. I tossed and turned, trying to fall back asleep, telling myself it didn’t really matter whether he said good-bye or not. I thought about getting up and brushing my teeth, but didn’t. After what seemed a very long time, I heard steps coming toward the guest room and a knock at the door.

I bolted out of bed just as Max whispered, “I’m off to work, but I wanted to come and tell you good-bye.” We embraced tightly, caressing each others backs. Max leaned down and touched his lips to mine. Damn! Why hadn’t I gotten up to brush my teeth?! It was electric. All the passion we’d buried was in that simple, innocent gesture. We kissed again, lips closed and yet not at all chastely.

The thought that came into my mind is a saying that goes something like this:  A butterfly flaps its wings; far across the sea, a hurricane forms. As if all the energy in this simple act was channelled, reverberating somewhere halfway around the world. (Sure enough, days later, an earthquake occurred off the coast of Chile, causing tsunami fears as far away as Hawaii.)

And then Max left.

I tossed and turned some more, trying to sleep. Eventually, I heard Max’s children getting ready for school, and I woke my own offspring to bid them goodbye. We packed our things for a mid-day departure and took Max’s wife and a mutual friend out for breakfast. We said our good-byes, loaded the rental car and made a few last-minute souvenir stops on our way toward the airport.

As I drove past the intersection at which I would have turned to go to the local office — Max’s office — tears began streaming from my eyes. I wept silently and uncontrollably, dabbing at my eyes and blowing my nose with whatever napkins I could find in the car, trying to contain myself for the sake of my children safely strapped in the back seat. I wept for all that I would never know or share with this man, and for the hope that I would find a partner of my own. I wept all the way to the airport and was, only then, able to pull myself together and brace myself for the our flight back to reality.

2 thoughts on “goodbye, Max

  1. I have to ask . . . was any thought given to the wife as you kissed her husband?

    In my single days, I’ve been “the other woman” and since I’ve been married, I am now the “wife”. . . both roles difficult.

    1. For Max and me, kissing on checks or lips as a greeting is part of our culture — both as a hello and goodbye. Since this was a goodbye and the kiss was initiated by Max, I’ve no doubt it was meant as an innocent gesture. It was a close-lipped kiss…but there was a lot of energy behind it. Was I thinking of his wife at that moment? Probably not just then. Yet we are all friends and she is very much in mind as part of my continued friendship with Max. In fact, I feel more closeness with Max’s wife. I am not “the other woman” in their relationship.

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