If you stay in one place long enough, people around you will leave. This means going-away parties. A going-away party might take place at the person’s apartment, where they will try to offload furniture, clothing, and toiletries not necessary enough to make the move to San Francisco or Portland or North Dakota or back home to Cincinnati. The going-away party might be in a bar, or a friend’s apartment, where everyone will spend ten minutes talking to the departer and the rest of the time with people who, like themselves, are perfectly happy not to be moving to South Dakota, TYVM.
These parties have a wake-like quality. The departer is saying goodbye to one kind of life for another, and you, her friends, are saying goodbye to her physical presence in your lives. The departer is vanquished from the circle of hanging-out possibilities, downgraded to facebook-novelty status.
Except that despite living within five miles of this person for years, you only manage to see them once every couple of months, anyway. Most non-work friendships by this point in your life involve liking their recent accomplishments on social media and texting them photos of things that remind you of the social life you shared when you were younger and left your house more.
But now I am the departer. The deserter. I had the first of several ceremonial going-away festivities at my home recently. Seventeen people RSVPd. Seven showed up. Which was ideal, and completely expected as I live in an inconvenient neighborhood. They were my closest and most long-standing friends here, the ones willing to come to an inconvenient neighborhood on a weeknight.
But one of them actually told me to “have a nice life.” Which then made me retreat to the bedroom and cry a little. I actually have said that to people at past going-away parties, but I never realized what it might be like to hear it.
Don’t say that to people. It’s weird and oddly morbid and contradicts everything we know about modern life IE you don’t ever really lose anyone, per se, you just stop inviting them to your local events. This is what I prefer to think.