There’s nothing unusual about this.
Forks clink against ceramic plates. We’re upstairs, taking up only half of the circular table we’re sitting at. I look to see what everyone’s got. A’s eating a burrito, as am I. B’s eating chicken strips and onion rings, and C has a sandwich. For a moment, we lose ourselves in our food; then we lose ourselves in conversation.
We run through our list of conversation topics, turning toward games and television and keeping away from school. We start to imagine the different paths our lives could have taken.
“Guys, imagine if we didn’t end up living together. Where would we be?”
We all shrug.
“Life would be so much better if we didn’t live together.”
“What if we didn’t become friends?”
“Again, life would be so much better.” We laugh. We banter.
“What if we all chose to go to our second-pick school?”
There is a silence, filled only by the sound of forks on plates. Why did we choose Puget Sound? It’s a question we’ve all asked ourselves before.
We stop eating. There’s also a look in his eyes—an apology.
“I’ve decided to transfer out. There’s nothing unusual about this.”
But then something unusual happens.
The room becomes quieter. An emptiness is present that was not here before. There is a sense of loss, of an amputation. We are three missing one. We are one less than whole.
He’s leaving. It’s not unusual. But despite how happy we are for him—that he’ll get to go back home—there’s no helping the sense of emptiness that has suddenly befallen us.
This week, I have been stranded with my friends at a Sonics in a car with a shot battery at midnight; I have hurt my back trying to learn how to juggle; I have hurt my brain trying to juggle finishing essays with studying for finals. And now it’s done.
Tomorrow morning, I’ll wake up and take a shuttle to the airport. B will do the same in the afternoon. We’ll lock our doors and walk out the suite, wonder if A is home yet.
Frost forms on my window.
C locks the door and boards a plane.
Here comes the hard part.