Last night I said goodbye to a dear expat friend who returned to the US after living in Barranquilla for almost two years. While I am excited for this new era in his journey, he’ll be deeply missed here in Colombia.
As I helped him take his luggage to the counter at the airport, I felt that pang in my chest, signaling that the page is turning to a new chapter. While the page was mainly in his book, not mine, I have been there often enough to be familiar with the gratitude and anxiety, the hope and happiness, and the sentimentality and the sadness that pools behind that pang. It’s the feeling that comes up at all turning points — your own, and those of friends and loved ones. It’s the feeling that this poem tries to capture. (And while the song might be a little cheesy, I can’t help but feel that Closing Time is the appropriate soundtrack.) I hope you enjoy it.
Big Orange Trucks
U-Haul rental centers.
Where to start?
Years ago, there was the time the truck broke down
Before you even left town
When we were young and engaged and full of hope.
And many years after that, that other time, the time when we –
We being another you, but the same me
Bought boxes upon boxes
To fit your old life into something that could be covered with tape
And moved across the country
So reluctant were you to part with it, and so desperate was I to have you.
But before all of this, there was that time
When my father literally refused to leave the U-Haul office
Instigating a full-on sit-in of other parents of graduating seniors
Demanding that U-Haul provide the trucks that were promised.
So that we could move on. Literally.
It was the start of a new life back then, but one that was not yet mine.
And then there was today, when I dropped you off, dear friend,
To pick up a truck and more boxes
To move out of your apartment down the street
And on to Africa and then to Boston
And I got a little teary, and I couldn’t leave without giving you one last hug
In front of everyone, while you stood in the big line.
Cause that’s the thing about U-Haul centers.
There’s never any faking it there. Turning points are no longer theoretical
And sweat, dust, stress and the smell of corrugated cardboard
Are a poor and shoddy cover
For something that might only be called