Henrique’s Farewell

Last night I went to the farewell party of a dear friend. One of those people who modify the world around. Someone who causes conflicts, intrigues, conversation, controversy, and for that reason will not go unnoticed. I didn’t even meet him that many times while he was in London. Our conversations were most of the time political. The two of us fighting for an ideal of justice.

Yesterday, at his farewell party, I cried. Not a sobbing cry of despair, but just tears that overflowed at seeing time passing by. A light crying, touched by seeing the world change. And the world, of course, changes all the time. Some events, however, make it more evident. Looking at our discussion forum, and not having seen Henrique’s well-written opinions lately, already anticipated what London would be without Henrique, an emptier London. Even if Henrique was not part of my daily life.

And last night, as I looked at the dozens of people that went to say goodbye to him, I couldn’t help but think about the life of all of us travellers, immigrants, and wanderers of the world. I could not help but think about how difficult this process of saying goodbye is. How difficult it is to restart in every single place, of becoming someone in relation to the other, and then having to leave, or see him/her leave. It made me remember when my flatmates, Leila and Joss, left the house and I was left alone in an empty apartment in New York. It was the same feeling, the feeling of the end of an era. Life as we lived did not exist anymore.

I always run away from these feelings, from these rituals. I didn’t go to graduation parties. I did not care about weddings. Moved countries when my friends were graduating. Not that I was not able to understand the functions of a ritual. But maybe I thought that because I thought I understood, I was beyond them. Yesterday, however, looking at Henrique leave, watching him moved saying goodbye to the people who were his life here, I knew how important these rituals were. Important for all of us. And I allowed myself to cry, because to say goodbye is not easy. Not for the ones who stay, nor for the ones that go. And the beauty might even lie in there: that it is not easy. If we were to leave countries where we lived for years untouched, without a drop of suffering, that would be quite strange. On the other hand, the end of an era always marks the beginning of new times. Resisting this is an enormous waste of time. But to pretend that we do not suffer is also silly. The importance of the ritual is exactly that: of marking. Marking this transition that is not easy, not insignificant, to mark it symbolically.

Last night it was marked. In a bowling lane full of Henrique’s friends it became evident how many people he touched while he was here. How many people transformed him with their ideas, their presence, and their behaviour. And I confess, I thought about not going. I dislike farewell parties. It is much easier when a person leaves without us noticing it , at least it seems easier. But I did go. And today, when I woke up, I thought about Leila and Joss. We should have made a party, a farewell party. Because a farewell party does not celebrate leaving, but our encounter with the other.

Published in Portuguese January the 17th 2009.