This week is "the last week." In 72 hours, most of our (American) friends will be back in the US. Lindsay, Kayla, and I are among the few staying, but Caroline will be gone. And eventually Kayla will leave, and then Lindsay, too. At that point, it will just be me and a few of the international students, so I'm processing that in my own way.
Often times, my method of 'processing', consists with simply changing the subject; I think it's technically called denial. For instance, everyone seems to be teetering on the verge of an emotional breakdown these days, so much so that the mere mention of "the last night" or "the last week" has been enough to reduce just about any member of our group to tears. So lately, when someone brings up "the last night", I just say, "We don't need to talk about this right now! We still have so much time left!" And then I promptly change the subject.
But that brings us to last Thursday night. Thursday night is karaoke night at O'Malley's. Usually, a good number of us are there, and sometimes a few of us will get up and do a song together, but last Thursday night we were all there, and we were all there to sing.
About half an hour in, our group was singing, laughing, taking photos, requesting songs, and just enjoying each other's company -- around 40 of us Americans in attendance -- when The Beatles' "I Get By with a Little Help from My Friends" came on. And that's when I lost it. I just lost it. I was standing at the microphone with Kayla, Caroline and Lindsay all around me, ready to sing, and at the sound of the opening notes, I burst into tears, right there into the mic. It was as though all the denial and all the moments of "Shhh, if we don't talk about it, it won't happen!" had culminated into one big tearful realization: this is it. This time next week, it will all be over. The four of us will be no longer be together, not here, at least, in this amazing city we love so much. It will never really be the same. Not like this, at least.
The funny thing is, no one in the group even batted an eye; someone being reduced to tears about all of this is a very real possibility at any given moment, so no one judged or scoffed, let alone wondered why I was crying. As Caroline, Kayla, and Lindsay attempted to comfort me, I started laughing, asking, "Who cries during karaoke? This is so stupid."
And it was stupid. It was melodramatic and embarrassing and silly and stupid.
But it also wasn't stupid. I have more memories with these four girls than some friends I've known my whole life -- really incredible, once-in-a-lifetime, rich memories. We fit together so well and are friendships are so natural and easy that I don't know how I got along 21 years without them.
And this city! Don't get me started on this city or you will regret it. This city has been the backdrop for the forging of these friendships, as well as the backdrop of so many unforgettable days and nights. The backdrop of so many stories I'll be telling at dinner parties for years, stories I'll be telling my children and grandchildren. All of these stories took place in this city.
And I get to stay in this city, something for which I'm so thankful -- I can't imagine going home anytime soon -- but it without these girls, it will never be the same. Not like this, at least.
That night became one of the most memorable nights of the year, with so much laughter and, yes, a few more tears. We finished our Beatles' song, and sang a Beach Boys song as well. Caroline sang a special rendition of Carly Simon's You're So Vain, personalizing the lyrics in tribute to a certain former love interest of mine (who wasn't at O'Malley's that night, or any night, but we like to think he was walking by and heard his shout-out from the street).
That was last week, and this is this week, aka that week, aka the last week.
I've got a lot more processing to do.