Parting Gifts

Margo Griffin

Originally published in Bright Flash Literary Review

He hands me things as I ready myself to leave, leftover bread, teabags, and an over-ripened avocado. It all seems strange. He has never done anything like this before in our barely eight-month relationship. It is almost as if he is passing out party favors or parting gifts to a guest who soon heads out of the door.

Thinking back, I remember sometimes seeing and hearing my love mumbling under his breath. It is almost as if he were talking to someone else in the room; perhaps that someone lives in his own head. Of course, he doesn’t include me in these quiet conversations with himself, but I recognize his distress, almost as if my love is arguing or debating a decision he is struggling to make. And now, finally, his agonizing choice is made, and he almost wordlessly pushes me away, handing me his parting gifts along the way.

Maybe these tiny tokens are bookmarks, saving his place in my life. But the shelf life of this morning’s souvenirs is short, so maybe his simple gesture means nothing more than, “Think of me at breakfast,” “Until tomorrow”, or “I’ll be back soon.” More likely, I think, these items communicate a desire and need for escape. And so, perhaps, these tangible symbols say something more permanent, like, “Sorry, I am checking out”, “Don’t call me, I’ll call you,” or “Here’s something to remember me by.”

After three months have passed, we reconnect. I am hesitant at first, but my love’s smile and persistent charm lure me back into his arms. I feel electric, and am overcome with emotion the first time we touch and kiss again. He envelopes me in his arms and says, “I am so sorry.” And when I press him for more info, he simply says, “I can’t.” And so, inexplicably, I let it go.

We continue seeing each other for several months. Our short time together is loving and joyous. He puts toothpaste on my nose and licks it off again, and we laugh. We sip red wine and revel in an insatiable physical intimacy. And then, slowly, over time, I relax and begin to think of our last break-up as an isolated event. I start trusting my instincts once more, and give him my heart to hold again.  But soon, I notice subtle but familiar changes in him, signs that remind me of another moment not so long ago. Then, one night, as my love stood by his kitchen sink, preparing to brush his teeth before bed, in an almost inaudible whisper, I hear him say, “here we go again.” And from the bedroom, I quietly reply, “yes, here we go again.”

We wake up the following day and sit at the kitchen table, talking over our morning tea; the blazing sunlight pours through the window next to my seat. As I look at my love sitting with his back straight up against his chair, I notice his body seems almost stiff. And when I stare up at his recently clean-shaven face, I see that his big brown eyes are communicating some measure of pain and regret.

I stand up and finish my tea, grabbing my bag to leave. My love’s eyes dart around the room, desperately searching for something, something just right. He eventually settles on a granny smith apple and a half-full bottle of wood glue that he says is perfect for fixing the broken cabinet latch in my kitchen. And as he hands me my parting gifts, I stare up into his sad, distant, brown eyes and say my last goodbye.

MARGO GRIFFIN has worked in public education for over thirty years and is the mother of two daughters and to the best rescue pug-dachshund mix ever, Harley. Margo's work has appeared in interesting places such as, Had, Bending Genres, Twin Pies Literary, The Dillydoun Review, Bear Creek Gazette and Roi Fainéant Press. You can find her on Twitter @67MGriffin.