The final-final goodbye
Saying goodbye to Eric is the hardest goodbye I’ve ever said in my life. It’s such a difficult goodbye that it takes us two long days to do it. The plan is for Eric and Dotti to tail me to Laredo on Friday. We’ll camp Friday night, spend Saturday and Saturday night together, and then I’ll start counting down the days until I see Eric again on Sunday when he turns back to Houston and I cross into Mexico.
Of course we’re late getting ready on Friday. The long drive puts us at the Casa Blanca State Park campground just minutes before gate curfew. I’m as tired and sore as 310 miles can make me. The last few hours at 70-plus miles per hour in the dark have left me tired, hungry, and stressed out. We’re both hopeful of a nice night of sleep to calm our nerves.
Maybe that nice night of sleep isn’t meant to be. We toss and turn just as we’ve done every night for the last week. The anticipation of this weekend has surely stressed us out. Tonight it’s not just my mind that’s wide awake; the clock kicks away seconds, minutes, and hours to the beat of camp-wide ranchero music and jet planes taking off at the nearby airport.
Sometime the next day, we feel alive enough to crawl out of bed for coffee and biscuits at McDonald’s. After brunch, we dive deeper into Laredo and scope out the border. This entire city is booming with life and happy people. Money seems to flow very freely here. Hordes of people walk the downtown shopping district streets. Traffic is hectic even for a Saturday!
The demand for goods and services truly surprises me. I was expecting a muted border town with cheap goods and services. Not so here. Prices are incredibly high. Gasoline alone is on average 30-cents per gallon higher here than just outside town.
Down by the Rio Brave and between the two international bridge crossings, we watch people fish from the Mexico side. All the while, border patrol in air boats and SUVs run up and down the US side of the river.
Dinner is beer and takeout. We eat at camp and then walk to the top of the hill for sunset. These are special moments for sure. We Skype with Dad while the city comes to life.
Before bed, I make final decisions on gear and food. The tarp stays. And packing without it and the pole makes me feel instantly better about how everything fits. It also seems all my friends think people starve in Mexico. They’ve sent me off with about 15 pounds of grub. I’m afraid Mexican Customs will think I’m smuggling food into their country. Dave’s vacuum-packed protein bars might look suspicious at a border crossing.
Eric helps me sort through the food, insisting I take more than I could possibly need. I hold my ground and then relent. At least ten pounds of food are coming with me.
These little distractions are just what we need to take our minds off tomorrow. I can’t bare to think that every hour is another hour closer to that final-final goodbye.
The little goodbyes leading up to the last one are hard enough. They’re the tremors before the big quake. They get harder and harder because you know deep down that the final-final goodbye is coming.
It’s when you look deep into your partner’s eyes, when you feel their heartbeat through a hug, when you kiss their smile. You know while pulling away that you don’t get to look into those eyes or feel that heartbeat or kiss that smile for a very long while.
Who chooses the hug to be the last hug? I can’t make that choice, and yet Eric hasn’t let go of a hug for weeks. If I don’t loosen my grip, we would hug forever.
I can’t stand wrenching my own heart. Seeing Eric’s torn to pieces is even harder. In my head, I’ve threatened a hundred times to cancel the entire trip and glue myself to Eric forever. We’ll just put this one on pause until we can make it together. These expeditions don’t cost so much money that we couldn’t save for a few years and then take a tour as two.
Sunday morning is just as I expected. We’re both emotional wrecks looking for any excuse to delay the inevitable. I decide we should say out goodbyes at the campground. It’s better than making this even harder outside customs.
The final-final goodbye comes. I look deep into Eric’s eyes, hug him as strongly as ever, and kiss his smile. We’ll see each other again soon, I know.
For now, I need to focus on the border crossing. I’ve practiced some Spanish but know it won’t be nearly enough.