Wheels Up


I knew our love was over before you got back in your car.

We were the only people at the airport and you rushed me to my gate even though I had three hours to spare.

I couldn’t bear to watch you drive away so I turned on my heel and headed for the automatic doors before you shifted to drive.

I scanned the Arrival and Departure monitors before heading to security. The airline names, destinations and expected times all looked like gibberish to me. My eyes had glossed over at this point as our memories scrambled in my mind like a combination of letter tiles that’d make for a horrible game of Scrabble. Absolutely nothing made sense.

I could still feel our final embrace against my chest and somehow in that moment, I knew it would’ve been our last. How you didn’t care to open the door for me when all I knew was how often you’d do it as an excuse to grab my hand and pull me in for a kiss. How you quickly said your goodbyes when I always knew you to beg me to stay. How you’d let me sleep in and I’d wake up to the smell of hot coffee and the sounds of bacon sizzling.

Here I was waiting in line at airport security knowing that we were done although nothing was said to clarify this. There was something in the way we said goodbye that I knew it was the last time. There was something in the way I felt my heart squeeze in my chest, wringing itself free of our love. 

I still let you know that I had found my gate and made it to my assigned seat on time. You responded but I could sense your annoyance from your choice in punctuation. 

Once I arrived at my destination, our connection grew spotty. 

I wanted to justify the change in communication but when you kept ignoring my texts, I knew the physical distance between us was the last thing to blame.

I tried to keep you in the loop by sharing my itinerary and scheduling nightly phone calls but, when I heard your tone on the other end, I felt our love decay like a severed vine. As I got closer to the end of my trip, I dreaded having to come to terms with the end of us. I knew about this trip months before and you had offered to pick me up at the airport. I contemplated asking my parents or a friend to pick me up instead but, then I remembered I left my car and keys at your apartment. Whatever we were at this point…finding out what that was, was inevitable.

My flight home got canceled due to a severe thunderstorm. The lightning bolts stretching across the sky like spider legs made me think of the anxiety building in my stomach like a thick web. We spoke on the phone once I found myself a hotel to stay at for the night. 

For the first time that week I asked you what was wrong. You blamed work and missed deadlines. You always complained about work but there was never a night before that week where you didn’t find time to call me on the phone. But here I was calling you as I watched the sky put on a thunderous light show. I felt sick to my stomach as I listened to the ringback tone, wondering if I’d be talking to your voicemail instead.

As the conversation continued, I felt myself come undone. I couldn’t stand the lack of inflection in your tone. It hurt to hear you call me by my name instead of babe or sweetheart. It hurt knowing how much I missed you but, it killed me even more knowing the person I missed died alongside our love in that damn airport parking lot.

When I traveled back home the next morning, the letter tiles in my mind had been scrambled to death and at this point, it felt as if every new letter I picked was a Y or a Z. There was nothing left to work with.

As soon as I saw your car pull up to the curb, I knew it was over.

How you barely gave me a smirk.

How your eyes darted away from mine.

How you didn’t even greet me with a hug.

You drove me back to my car and handed me my keys.

Similar to me, you pivoted away and couldn’t bear to watch me drive off.

As I drove home that night, I could barely make sense of my GPS. My sense of direction felt broken. Just days before I had left on a trip and when I returned home, we decided to leave each other. 

For a while I wondered what would have happened if I never left.

Would our love have held on longer?

Would we have stumbled across the dead end sooner?

I what-ifed myself to death as I got lost finding my way to the Tobin Bridge, wondering what could possibly be next…not knowing in that moment that without our love’s departure, I would’ve never reached my ideal destination.

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