Yesterday was the end. The real, live end. I clocked in, I did what I always do, and I clocked out. Actually, I forgot to clock out (as per norm) and had to turn around at the front door and retrace my final steps.
There were hugs and there were kind words, there was begging — for more time and for continued proximity. There were deep breaths and there were promises, promises to never be a stranger. There were goodbyes from customers, from co-workers, from everyone. And then I left.
Three years, four months and two weeks after I showed up, I left. I hugged back and I made promises and I smiled, and I skipped down the front steps just like I’ve done who knows how many times before.
And then I cried. I hit the last step, and was taken off guard by the temporary blindness of hot tears. By the time I unlocked my car, my face was drenched. I was just shy of sobbing. I called Alex.
“I’m done,” I said.
“How are you, babe?” he asked.
I could barely choke it out. “I’m crying.”
I couldn’t really say much else, so I told him I’d be home soon and hung up.
I really left. I left a great job, a fun place, and a family. When people ask where my family is, you know — in the middle of all this moving business, I never say Charlottesville. Because the family they’re asking about isn’t there. But I do have a family there, and an unforgettable one. Back there with the sweat and (sometimes) tears, the sauce-stained t-shirts and the ankles sticky from spilled Budweiser, I left a family I barely knew I had. I left them, right where I had been, and I cried all the way to my new home.
It was a good run. I may not need a tray or a memo pad next time, but I’ll bet I can’t stay gone for long.