Loss is a curious thing — too elusive to comprehend, yet perfectly clear when it strikes. 

It leaves your fingertips hopelessly grasping at air and your eyes haunted with the ghost of what once was. It burdens your shoulders with a weight suddenly unshared and troubles your heart with an abrupt chill. 

And sometimes, when you’re not looking, it extends a long, leathery finger to the tender skin beneath your chin and ever so gently turns your head towards it. Foolishly, you find yourself frozen, face-to-face with what you’d spent a lifetime evading; your cheeks are tinged red, bitten by its frigid breath fraying across your skin, and your lips are chapped, numb and trembling with the resistance you wish you could speak to life. But you can’t bring yourself to tend to either, compelled by your captor’s glassy eyes to do nothing but gaze deep within them — beyond them — to faintly trace the outline of a door. The realization wraps itself around your heart, squeezing and bruising and bleeding: here.

You lost them here. 

 “Yes,” is the whispered reply, edges blurred and matter-of-fact. The affirmation carries no malice. It holds no pity. It is just fact, settling as simply within your ears as a tide might crash against a shore. “You lost so that I may find,” Loss tells you, and with the very same finger, points so your eyes can follow it back to the door, “for it is in this duplicity that I guide.” 

 

It is said that more often than not, there is no spoken “goodbye.”

That more often than not, you find yourself craning your neck and tipping on your toes in anticipation for the one word that is supposed to give you freedom from an eternal state of waiting. That more often than not, you find yourself reduced to sallow skin and jutting bones. You are a skeleton of what you could have been had you not been starved of what a ‘goodbye’ can impart. The “goodbye” is a ship that sailed without instilling defiance or anger, or acceptance or spirit, or anything within you; you are left a comma without a phrase and an inhale without a tumble of words, a being with a deliberate beginning but an abrupt end. 

But you stand before it now, this door labeled Goodbye. You lost them here — to this door and to whatever lay beyond it. It towers above you intimidatingly and you can’t help your gaze from brushing across the smooth expanse of its wood: the flicks and symbols, sharp and discontinuous, tempered by longer strokes that are delicate and more fluid. A presence beside you cuts your examination short, but you don’t try to escape it this time. Loss invokes neither fear nor comfort within you as it places that same worn hand on your shoulder. But the moment it speaks, guides you forward so that your feet scrape the coarse material of the welcome mat, and invites you to look closer, your vision blurs.

You find yourself swept up in a recognition so potent that it brings you to your knees, because there it all is: Your eyes are drinking in the fragments of the “goodbye” meant for you, unspoken and instead, impressed upon the structure rising far above your head. Ambivalence collects in the curved engravings, following their sweet path before pooling abjuringly in the harshly lined flicks in Goodbye’s wood. Molten gold runs down both sides into a detailed floral bloom, each golden stem lined with the irresolute: deep breaths, weak smiles and longing glances. Your gaze drops to the doorknob, shining as brightly as glistening tears or sparkling eyes may, and further down to the mat brushing roughly against your toes. Kneeling down, you take the woven material between your fingertips, and discern it to be of joy and of sorrow, determination and fear, love and loathing.

It is much easier to leave than to be left alone, you can’t help but think. Because even as your eyelids flutter shut, you can make out the soft light the wooden door is washed in; you can see the acceptance, the quiet resolution, the promise of a new day, faintly glowing behind the reluctance. And like a fool, you are drawn to it — because you dread night the most. You always have; night is for dark and loneliness, for tears and half-empty reassurances, for regrets and memory rewinds. Night is formidable, dreadful and terrifying.

 

Knuckles white and breathing shallow is how you remain on the ground, reeling from the swell of lucidity crashing against your fragile form. The presence of a stranger-no-more looms above you, its shadow engulfing your body in darkness before bending its gnarled knees to level its gaze with yours. You expect it to say something — in mockery, or bitterness or sympathy. But when the silence becomes too loud and your concentration begins to fracture, you will your eyes upward. 

“Is this what you wanted?” You are asked, in a reverberating hum.

Is it?

You had desired the closure pinned to a “goodbye” you never received, had wanted to exhale a bated breath and put a period to an unfinished sentence. You got a farewell in a form more intricately articulated than you could have imagined. But strokes of pitch black rapidly paint their way around you, now, as Night reclaims its throne. And shakily, you realize:

A good-bye was what you had longed for but perhaps it wasn’t so good after all.    

 

Roaa Shaheen | roaa.shaheen@yale.edu