The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand


I hear the bear kill him. There are roars, Ty’s yells of pain and terror, the ripping of fabric and the cracking of bones. I press my face into the rough bark of the oak tree, and I squeeze my eyes closed, and I listen to him die.

When you’re 23, you deal with heartbreak by drinking a bottle of wine, eating a gallon of chocolate ice cream, and watching three seasons of Friends reruns. You also call the women in your life who won’t be wise. You call the women who will be spiteful and catty. Because that’s what you need.

When you are ten, heartbreak is a harder deal. Your parents won’t let you drink a whole bottle of wine by yourself. The ice cream is doled out in ridiculous bowlfuls. And forget about spending eight hours in front of the TV. Your screentime limit is 30 minutes on weekdays.

My poor boy got dumped the other day and we are all suffering through it. He smashes the ice puddles with his metal baseball bat. He cries. He watches Annie and cries some more. He falls asleep early. He hides in the school nurse’s office.

It’s easy to see, 29 years his junior, that this heartbreak will probably pale in comparison to future heartbreaks. It’s easy to think about him splitting up with his high school sweetheart when they head off to colleges on different coasts. It’s even easy to consider his first divorce. But for him, this relationship is the only one. It’s the first and last. It’s the only time he’ll ever feel loved like this. I haven’t told him that it’s the FIRST time he’s going to feel this way. I’m not cruel.

When you are 23, sobriety, broccoli, and full days at work come back eventually, after many painful nights. When you are ten, the ability to face school with your usual hopeful countenance comes back, too. It might take an afternoon of planning pranks with your little brother. It might take toilet papering your own house (with the promise of cleaning it up afterward). And actually, the toilet paper was rather beautiful. Or maybe it was his face as he tossed a full roll onto the porch roof and watched it unravel on its way to the snow below. He forgot, right then, about the horrific beginning to his week. He was just impressed with all the gravity and its effect on thin, light paper. My sweet boy. It does get better.


3 thoughts on “The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand

  1. Oh, Andi. Oh… I’m so sorry for his heartbreak. I can’t say here in public how precisely this is resonating this week, but believe me, you have written the most perfect thing.

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