Lugging my duffel into school Friday, I felt like a total idiot. It contained exactly one pair of Pennington Tennis 2011 sweatpants, one Haddonfield Field Hockey t-shirt, two German romantic comedies, one copy of Forrest Gump, and two chocolate Santas left over from Christmas. Yet somehow, it felt so much heavier. Maybe because it carried with it an unsaid goodbye.
When my classes were over for the day, I hopped on the bus to Spandau and waited for my best friend on the stairs of the town hall. Soon, I couldn't feel my fingers. Just one more part of me that felt numb.
I walked to the nearest bakery and bought a hot chocolate, waiting for her. Slowly sipping, I sat in front of the main window, watching those walking past. Questions of what they were doing and where they were going never crossed my mind, unlike my normal pondering. I just felt too sad.
I managed to keep a smile on my face through our last dinner at the cheap little Italian restaurant in Charlottenburg, and laughed when we both botched up the pronunciation of our orders. And when we had to go back to her house, I tried to block out the goodbyes in my head, trying to make everything normal again.
I took the shoes and clothes that she couldn't fit in her suitcase, and wore the jacket she gave me when we went to the grocery store. We wanted to pick up a carton of ice cream for our movie marathon. We started running when she saw someone she knew, as we were makeup-less and in pajamas at 7 PM on a Saturday night. Collapsing in giggles when we got up to the cashier, we made self deprecating jokes about our lack of a social life.
Walking outside, the black turned into white with the heaviness of the snowfall. We ran home with our tongues out to catch the flakes, as this would be the last time she'd see snow in a while. The cars drove past, and probably made fun of the weirdos they saw running in the middle of the street.
The intent of packing faded once the ice cream was opened. We started watching the first movie, giggling and gossiping and eating ice cream as it played through. The hours flew by, and suddenly we heard her host father knocking on the door. He peeked his head in and said, "It is not lovely how the two of you are making noise. Please go to bed", in English although we are almost fluent in German. It was too early on her last night here, and we both went to bed upset because with each tick of the clock, we were losing time.
At 8 o'clock, the alarm woke us up and we finally finished packing. She quickly skyped with her parents and asked them what to do with her winter jacket. She wouldn't need it when she got home, and it took a lot of space up. However, we managed to fit it in her suitcase. With two hours to go, we weighed everything using the family scale. As always, the number was higher than what was wanted. The sweater was taken out first. And then the Uggs. And then the heels. One by one, we got the suitcase down to 23 kilograms, with ten minutes left on the clock.
Her host brother stood and watched as the car was being loaded. He gave her an awkward hug goodbye, as he did not want to go to the airport with us. We shut the trunk door and opened the driveway gates.
I managed to keep my eyes dry until we sat in the car. All of a sudden, we both started crying. We passed the mall where we went shopping every Monday, and then the train station where we always met. We then started bawling. I couldn't find a positive twist to the situation.
Reaching the airport, I grabbed my duffel and the bags of clothes and shoes she gave me. She took her backpack and carry on, and her host dad carried her suitcase. We walked into Terminal 1, and went to find the Lufthansa counter. Two others were flying 'home' with her, and many were there to say goodbye. As soon as she spotted the crowd, she turned the other way and tried to leave. But she was coaxed back, and through sobs and tears, she let her suitcase be weighed and her passport be scanned. The host mom explained the situation to the employee, and he took pity on her.
Turning around, she hugged everyone goodbye, and I stood there idly by. Another exchange student came over and tried to comfort me, as she had said goodbye to her best friend the week before and empathized with me. At points, I was crying harder than my best friend. She had the comfort of seeing her parents in two days.
Photos were taken, more tears were shed. Finally, after one of the most painful hours of my life, she was led by an employee to the security gate, as she wouldn't go. The two others flying with her came shortly after, and suddenly all was quiet. They were gone. Just like that.
With no idea of when I would see her again, I boarded the bus home. I had no more tears to shed. I was exhausted.
I barely cried on that last Monday in July, as I parted with my family. The guarantee of my return in 11 months was my comfort.
I had no comfort this time. Melbourne is too far away.
As she waited for her connecting flight at Frankfurt International, she sent me a quick text, which made me cry harder. We made such a strong connection, even though we had known each other for a short four months. The phrase 'right place, right time' is thrown around a lot, but here it made sense. Being exchange students, we went through struggles and successes totally unique to anyone but us. We laughed about things only we would understand, and had a stronger friendship than those who have known each other since kindergarten.
When she walked through the gate, she ended the journey that had brought us together, and I think that's what hurt the most.