It was August, 2004. In a small town in rural Georgia, the air weighing heavily upon me with its signature heat and humidity, I found myself in the company of strangers. Strangers with the same last name as myself, a name I had mindlessly taken almost exactly one year before. A moving truck was parked in front of the brown, weathered building where we had once again tried to create a home. Piece by piece, the furniture was removed. The contents of a year’s collection carried out, I watched in silence with no energy left to argue or protest. By afternoon, the condo was nearly empty. There was nothing left to do, nothing left to say. It was a good-bye of fear, of hatred, of disappointment, and of relief. As I stood in an empty room upstairs, the blinds slightly parted, my eyes followed the moving truck as it ambled down the paved road. With caution and determination, it turned left, out of sight. And out of my life.
That was not the only good-bye I said that day. After a year of lies and manipulations, a year of fights and half-hearted reconciliations, the year had ended with threats and violence. Somewhere along the passing of that year, I lost my innocence, my faith, my trust. I lost hope that year and found myself on that heavy August afternoon struggling to determine if my life could be rebuilt in solitude. In an empty bedroom, I made a make-shift bed upon the floor, a pillow and a few blankets graciously left behind. With the blinds shut tight, I lay on that empty floor and the tears flowed as each good-bye washed over me again and again.
The first good-bye, on the first day of February. A good-bye filled with anger and exasperation, a good-bye that sent me fleeing over 300 miles away, necessitating other good-byes that I did not want to say. Then so many days of April and May, in a city far from home, sitting on the rooftop of the old Victorian house in which we lived, the good-byes I said to the world each day as I contemplated jumping to the busy street below. Countless good-byes in the early days of summer when the tears fell with abandon and my heart began to close itself with the realization that there was no piece left to give to this man. And then that fateful day in August, the final good-bye.
As the months and years have passed, I have let go of the anger and hatred embedded in that good-bye. The disappointment lies dormant, the fears still swelling periodically. The innocence can never be rebuilt; the trust still wavers in undulating shadows of a battle that lives on in the depths of my memory. But the faith has been restored, the hope rekindled. As time has passed, I have found peace in that final good-bye. And the realization that it is the moments of solitude that allowed me to rebuild my life and my dreams.