I was standing behind them when I looked down and saw his boots. Big, huge (like massively huge) leather boots. In the millisecond it took my mind to jump back to the time we put little baby Pape in one of those gigantic boots for a quick photo, my eyes started overflowing with tears.
How is it possible that in one week they will disappear from our life here in Dakar?
June is a horrible month for expats. It’s the worst. So many goodbyes. Even the ones that aren’t particularly hard or remarkable add up and up and up… until the weight of all the losses seems like it will crush life out of you.
But the ones like saying goodbye to Jenn and Shawn (aka Mr. Big Boots), some of our very closest friends who have walked this life with us for years? Those are so incredibly painful. (Actually Jenn has her own ranking of pain levels and would qualify these goodbyes as ‘stabbing knives’ or ‘swarm of bee stings’.)
Yesterday morning we went over to have one last breakfast with them before they leave next week. Despite the fact that they have zilcho furniture (’cause we bought it all), Shawn served up his home-cured bacon, eggs over easy, grits, homemade biscuits and cheesy hash browns. Jenn turned on the coffee pot and put out a wax print tablecloth as her contribution to the meal prep. We sat around talking about this, that and the other as if the clock on our time together wasn’t ticking. Then the guys left and it was just Jenn and me.
“Are you ready to leave?” I asked her. I wanted to hear her say yes. I wanted to hear that she knows they are making the right choice, that she has lived every experience she wanted to in Africa, that she has closure and said her goodbyes well and that the time for them to move on to the next step and she’s excited about it. But I also knew that hearing those words would hurt because it would feel as if she’s ready to move on from me, as if our friendship was one of the items she had piled up in the give-away stack to leave here.
My head knows it’s not actually true that she is moving on from our friendship, but my heart knows that distance changes things. I know this from experience as the expat who ‘gets left behind’ over and over… Each goodbye builds on the pain and sadness of the previous ones. It’s been a year and we are still grieving the losses from last June, the month of Expat Exodus, plus the ‘bonus departures’ that come up so quickly and take your friends unexpectedly. It’s part of the revolving doors of expat life.
And you guys are one giant pile of Twizzlers, creme brulée, Rice Krispie treats, Simone cake, sugar palm trees, baked German chocolate cake frosting, fondant au chocolat, Reese’s Pieces, brownie-ice cream-strawberries and a café gourmand’s worth of friendship sweetness to us. We will miss you.