Dealing with Leaving

I wish I could just leave places without thinking so much about leaving them. I leave Alaska on Saturday. Today is the last day I will drive fish out to the processing plant and layer ice over our bags of yellow-eye. Today was the last time I will buy medjool dates at the health food store before I have to go in the doors with a stroller or a sling. This week is the last week of being in Sitka without a baby. I wonder if I timestamp all my "lasts" so that I will remember them. I guess it's a way of lending significance to the commonplace, but maybe that's overrated. Or at least depressing. In Jonathan Tropper's new novel, This is Where I Leave You, he puts it like this: “If you could remember every last time, you’d never stop grieving.”

Grief does accompany these biannual transitions for me. Coming to Alaska, I miss the garden before I get to DIA. Leaving Alaska, I miss the rain before I've landed in Denver. Before I leave Luke, the week is a countdown of moments I try to ziploc for later inhalation when I'm at home and I realize his texture is slipping away and our phone conversations will grow shorter and shorter, like whisps of hair on a balding head--wondering where do these small but important things go, until we see each other again.

I wonder if living in two places will make us age faster, as I've seen in so many fishermen's faces up here, or if this lifestyle doubles our experiences and that's worth more than tight, less-lined skin. It depends on what time of year you ask me about living like this. Just before I leave either place, everything gets good. There are parties. People want to see you when they realize they won't be able to come over anymore, even if they rarely came over when they could. It almost seems like the longer you stay in a place, the lonelier you become. When you are leaving, you are at your most loved.

It's the plane ride from here that is always lonely, bearing the absence-wound of Luke and wondering if I should have stayed a little longer in Alaska. When I get home, I am awkward for a few days, trying to figure out how to insert myself back into a city where the traffic is fast and my calendar is full and it seems like every one's every moment is planned. Today, I had to do work, and that was it. When I was done, I drove our fish out the road and watched the trollers coming in from the north, heavier in the back with their catch icing in their holds. They move so smoothly, coming back to town, like they are at rest and being pulled in by a giant string.

If I have strings, I must have two, which must be why the leaving is hard--I cannot sever myself from either end. When the year is segmented, so are the heart and the head.