His plane left at 5:30 PM.
We had been up all night, finding and packing everything that he was putting into storage. The movers didn’t get to the apartment until after ten, and James didn’t return until sometime after three. When we finally called it a night and went back to my place, we stayed up talking like we always do, except that I knew it would be the last time for a while.
It was just past six when we went to bed. James managed to sleep for a few hours. I hardly slept at all.
We had coffee in the morning, then went back to his apartment to pack the rest of his things. He picked through all of his thesis notes, setting aside the ones he needed to take back with him to B.C. I put everything else into sixteen oversized garbage bags that I lined up in the hallway. One by one, James carried them down the scuffed wooden stairs to the curb as I swept the floors. The heat of the day was almost unbearable, and all I could feel was dust and sweat.
We weren’t even close to being finished when Neil arrived with the car. James threw what he could into his suitcases and the three of us set off for the 40, which was already jammed with rush hour traffic. I sat quietly in the back seat as Neil switched impatiently between radio stations. All of the announcers, both English and French, were talking about the smoking ban.
Despite the traffic, Neil got us to the airport with fifty minutes to spare, and he even found a spot to pull into in front of the Westjet gate. I had hoped that he would park the car so that we could all go in together, like my father taught me to do when people leave, but he needed to get back to the city right away so he didn’t.
We got out of the car and Neil retrieved a cart for James’ suitcases. I stood back and let Neil help James with the cart, giving them as much space as I could to say goodbye. There hadn’t been enough time for any of us, and I could sense that Neil resented this. I took a picture of them with the camera I had borrowed from the library, and then looked off someplace else.
Then, Neil walked around to the driver’s side of the car, leaving James and me where we were on the sidewalk. As we hugged each other goodbye, like we always do, I was starkly aware of car horns and people rushing past, and knew in my bones that we were out of time. Quickly, I told him that I loved him and implored him to be well. He kissed my cheek and promised me that he would. And then he went inside.
Neil drove me to Vendome metro and we found a few things to talk about along the way. But mostly we said nothing at all as the suburbs became the city again. I didn't cry until after I got home.