I stood on the sidewalk outside a cafe this afternoon, East 9th street, just off 2nd Avenue, with tears hidden behind massive sunglasses, croaking goodbyes into my cellphone and a number on the other end that will soon disappear.
I was an activist in college. I was sure of it. It defined me — in the columns I wrote for the Yale Daily News, in hours I spent on Monday evenings moderating debates and drafting policy recommendations, and on the weekends when I left campus to explore other parts of New Haven.
Most importantly, I wrote this to explain some of the reasons I showed up every day. [I also wrote about how I struggle with my name and awkwardly asking people to pronounce it right, d’yah’nah… there were a lot of identity conversations on the MEChA blog.]
Today, I said goodbye, one last time to the woman who raised me and was there while I was burning my fingertips learning to cook properly in our kitchen. She was there when I needed to learn to repair my pants when I fell and tore open the knees. And she was there to listen to my sometimes broken language, when I was struggling between English and Spanish and formats for language that never quite captured what I needed to explain.
Her letters to me some mornings, when I was getting ready to leave for ever lengthening trips away from home, were filled with loopy letters and blessings for my expeditions into uncertainty.
I croaked goodbye into my cellphone, as her voice urged me off the phone so I wouldn’t hear her own voice crack as she cried too.
But we don’t forget these people. These strong women who show us what it means to live and be loved. We hold onto them.
I don’t believe in goodbyes. Maybe because I’m terrible at them. I refuse to accept this as anything other than an “I’ll see you soon. In another place. With other people and other contexts and the same love we both grew around each other.”
But just in case, call your mother.