The plane gave a deep groan that vibrated through the entire cabin; past the tiny window, he could see they were finally moving down the runway and into the sky. It had been many years since he had ridden on a plane, but he wasn’t thinking about that, or where he was going, and how he was starting over for the first time in nearly a decade. No, he was thinking of her.
Back on the ground, she accepted a soft tissue from the older woman standing next to her. “Don’t worry, dear,” the woman said, “they always come back. It may take a while, but you’ll always have someone to pick up at the airport again.” She wasn’t sure if her heart believed that, but she dried her eyes as best she could and went home.
Traveling cross country took less time than he had thought, and the airport he arrived at was quiet and mostly empty. Part of him hoped to see her sitting in one of the gray chairs off to the side of the hallway that led to the plane. He hoped she would be reading one of her magazines – the artsy ones that littered their coffee table back home across the continent – and he could surprise her as she lost track of time. He wanted to see her smile. But there was no one there, no one waiting, no one to surprise. With a sigh he set off in search of his luggage and his new life.
By the time his plane touched down a few thousand lengthy miles away, she had already pretended to be asleep and then gone off to work. She listened to clients and filled out paperwork, all the while letting a slight nagging feeling build up behind her ears, his face but a shadow looming quietly around her as she tried to forget his absense.
Far away, he found himself unknowingly doing the same. Socializing with his new landlord, neighbors, and new coworkers provided him with some semblance of distraction, but everything would tumble down with a passing thought of, “She would love to see all this.” But now, there was little or no chance of ever seeing her again. A pit slowly grew in his stomach and he excused himself for the night.
Another pit was growing in her heart at the same time, sitting down at her desk with the first cup of coffee of the day, listening to the idle chatter of two of her fellow associates. They were talking about vacations as she was off somewhere else, lost in the rhythmic movement of her coffee spoon. She hadn’t slept well in two days, staying half awake in case he called, but the phone never rang once.
The last words he had said to her, as he watched the tears slowly rise in her warm brown eyes, kept repeating in his ears. “I do love you, you know,” he had said. In his mind, it was supposed to be reassuring. But she had said nothing in return, only turned around, waiting until she heard the door to the plane close behind her. But he never saw her turn around, never saw the look on her face, expecting him to step off the plane and wrap his arms around her once more.
She had never told him not to go. He had a promising career, but the promises were null and void unless he moved out of the way, and out of her sight. Since he had never discouraged her when it came to her own dreams, she knew it was only fair to let him go as far as he could with his own, even if that meant an end of something wonderful.
And he had prayed, in the months preceding his trip, that she would tell him one night that she couldn’t live without him, and didn’t want him to leave. Even if it was the truth, he knew she would never stand between him and opportunity. As the plane took off, he berated himself for not proposing like he had wanted to, but knew it was just as selfish to ask her to leave everything she had built.
If only she had known how he would have dropped everything for her, perhaps she would’ve told him that life was painful without him there. But knowing she would not have dropped a successful life for him, she could not find it within herself to ask it of him instead. So she spent the next few weekends curled up on her couch watching their favorite movies in the dark.
His weekends were more busy, if only because he worked then and had days mid-week off. It was hard for him not to pick up the phone, but knew it would do nothing but make things more difficult. One of his coworkers tried to get him back into the dating scene, but upon realizing there was no making him feel any better, backed off, leaving his days open to wish and hope for a sign. Anything that would make the sharp pains in his chest dissipate.
After two months of seperated love, a conclusion came over both of them: that there was no compromise fair to both, therefore leaving them to go back to ignoring their pain and being alone, even if everything else suffered.
She wasn’t sure if she believed the saying “It is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all” anymore.
And across the country, he agreed.