Parting Gifts

A Memoir 

By Margo Griffin

I remember that he kept handing me things as I readied myself to leave, leftover bread, teabags, and an over-ripened avocado. It was so strange and unsettling. During our almost eight-month relationship, he had never done anything like this before. It was almost as if my boyfriend passed out party favors or parting gifts to a guest who was soon headed out of the door. Maybe these tiny tokens were intended as place-keepers, mementos to save his space in my life. But, more likely, these items were a way of communicating his desire and need to escape. And then perhaps, these small parting gifts were intended to say, “Sorry, I am checking out for a bit, goodbye,” “Don’t call me, I’ll call you,” or “Here’s something to remember me by until we meet again.” 

When I think back to the weeks leading up to the day we last parted, I remember I would sometimes see and hear my love mumbling under his breath. It was almost as if he were talking to someone else in the room; perhaps, that someone lived in his own head. Of course, he didn’t include me in these quiet conversations he had with himself, but I recognized his distress, almost as if my love were arguing or debating a decision he struggled to make. And then, finally, his seemingly agonizing choice was made, and he wordlessly pushed me away. 

After three months passed, we eventually reconnected. I recall being hesitant at first, but my love’s smile and persistent charm eventually lured me back into his arms. I still remember the first time we touched and hugged again; he simply said, “I am so sorry.” And when I pressed him for more info, he simply said, “I can’t.” And so, inexplicably, I just let it go. 

We continued seeing each other for another three or four months. Looking back, our time together was loving and joyous, filled with ample laughs and an insatiable physical intimacy. And over time, I slowly relaxed and began to think of our last break-up as an isolated event. I started to trust my instincts once more and gave this man my heart to hold again.  But as the months went on, I noticed subtle but familiar changes in him, signs that reminded 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 heard him say, “here we go again.” And then from the bedroom, I quietly replied, “yes, here we go again.”

We woke up the following day and sat at the kitchen table, talking over our morning tea; the blazing sunlight poured through the window next to my seat. As I looked at my love sitting with his back straight up against his chair, I noticed that his body seemed stiff, and when I looked into his recently clean-shaven face, I saw that his big brown eyes were communicating some measure of regret. 

Finished with our tea, I stood up and grabbed my bag to leave, and his eyes began darting around the room as if in desperate search of something. He eventually settled on a granny smith apple and a half-full bottle of wood glue that he said would be perfect for fixing a broken cabinet latch in my kitchen. And as he handed me my parting gifts, I remember wistfully staring up into his sad downturned eyes, and I said my final goodbye.

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Margo Griffin is a 30-year urban public school educator from the Boston area. She is the single mother of two college-aged daughters and, adopted mom to the love of her life, her rescue dog Harley.

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