“I don’t want to say goodbye,” he whispered.
It was Saturday, the night before I left. His room looked exactly like it always did at the end of a long week: a desk covered in mugs filled with half-eaten oatmeal, a pile of clothes on the rocking chair, an overstuffed trash bin. He’s generally a tidy person so this would usually distress him, but tonight we ignore it. Instead, we focus on the fairy lights strung to his ceiling, the smell of eucalyptus from the humidifier and the way Middlebury actually feels kind of peaceful with no one around.
We’re lying by the window, holding each other like it’s the end because it sort of is. Even though we’re both sophomores, we’ve both committed to a full year of studying abroad. I’m from Brooklyn. He’s from Turkey, 5,000 miles away. It’s unlikely that we’ll see each other until our senior years. We both knew this was coming eventually, but it was always abstract, something to worry about later.
We met in the Abernathy Room. I was sitting on one red couch, he was on the other. I didn’t notice him, too busy working on my “broke brooklyn b!tch!” blog that I was sure was going to be a huge success, when he sauntered up to me, looking like a quirky side-character on a Netflix show.
“Helloooo, I’m Ege,” he chimed.
Intrigued by this strange, gentle boy with his long lashes and direct manner, I closed my laptop.
“Hi, I’m Regina,” I said, smiling.
As it turned out, we not only lived in the same building, but he had class with one of my Posse-mates and knew my roommate and so on and so on. Before we knew it, we became best friends, kissed drunk, started dating, blah blah blah. You’ve seen a rom-com; you know how the story goes.
Still, I never saw it coming. Ege just wasn’t the kind of person I saw myself falling in love with. He listened to indie music, read historical nonfiction by choice and opened Wikipedia on the toilet instead of Instagram. I, on the other hand, am literally falling asleep just writing those things. I never thought we’d last as long as we have.
Then this fall, our relationship took a step forward in a much more serious direction. After an especially depleting, slightly traumatizing summer, I came back to start my sophomore year not with the energy of a peppy freshman, ready to take on the world, but as a tired and scared 20-year-old. Our first week back for Res Life training I tried to break up with him, convinced that I was too broken to continue a serious relationship. He refused.
“I want to be there for you,” Ege said.
I cried into his shoulder and he held me in that moment the way he would continue to hold me for the next few months as I lost my home, my cat, my sense of security in the world. He held my hand walking to therapy and emotionally held me when I needed it most.
On the day Middlebury announced we would be sent home, I was thinking about how my spring semester was off to a shockingly bright start after so many hard months. How fortunate I was for all the people that helped me start feeling like myself again — Ege being a very big part of that.
This was supposed to be our spring, our few months of peace before saying goodbye. I wanted to give him these months of peace, of “happy college couple” time, but I couldn’t. What makes me love him even more is that he never wanted or expected any of that from me.
The morning after our last night, he helped me carry all my poorly-packed boxes to my aunt’s Honda. I was going to New York and he was going to stay on campus, at least until something better came along or he had to go home. Seconds before my aunt pulled up, we were sitting on my windowsill recounting the things we loved about the other. His eyes were teary, the same gentle boy I met over a year ago on the red couch in Axinn.
He helped me load the last of my boxes and we hugged, too shy to kiss goodbye under the watchful eye of my Catholic aunt. But he managed to hand me one thing before we drove off: Zucchini, the stuffed cat he had given me for my 21st birthday after I was forced to give my real one away. I held onto one little paw as the packed car pulled away, watching Ege from the window for as long as I could. He stood there the whole time, watching the distance grow between us.
Regina Fontanelli ’22 is an Opinions editor for The Campus.