Goodbyes and reunion in “Blue Jay”
April 27, 2023
I feel like I’ve been having some real difficulties in saying goodbye to people in the past couple months. There’s a heftiness, a profound weight to goodbyes, that I haven’t really felt before. Nothing permanent, but these goodbyes are the type that just float in the air, intangibly. There’s a solid chance I will see the person again, it’s not impossible—but when? If it’s possible, why can’t I see them right now? When the barriers are less than life and death, why are time, money and scheduling so daunting and making the distance so painful?
I write this because I know I will be having to have many more of these kinds of goodbyes as the semester is nearing its end (and I want it to end so badly; I hate writing papers). Soon comes Commencement, and the many lovely senior friends I have will go out into the world and live their life away from campus and become another Question Mark. When will we meet again?
“Blue Jay” (2016) gave me some catharsis in this. High school sweethearts Jim and Amanda bump into each other in their Californian hometown and start talking. Things have changed in the twenty years since they’ve seen each other. It should feel like a meet cute, the way they look at each other as they grab a cup of coffee. But there’s this silence that hangs between them, not the awkwardness of a romcom, but a burden. The experiences of the past twenty years and the whiplash of being forced to contend with what has happened. Lives once intersected are now perfectly parallel.
I recommend “Blue Jay” not because it’s a particularly happy film. There is a lot of joy in seeing the two dig around their old stuff, listening to the cringey mixtapes they made for each other, dancing to their prom night song. But even over coffee, Jim tears up hearing that Amanda’s married to an older man and the stepmother to two kids. The past is always on the verge of boiling over into a nostalgia-fest, threatening to burn them. Being older, the two can’t help but admit “that those dumb kids, they knew something.” Something they’ve lost.
I feel like I’m waiting to reunite with certain people in my life. That I am less an independent agent, that one day we will just be together again. But I think back to those recent goodbyes—a train platform in New Hampshire, a street corner in Vienna, an alleyway in Boston and an airport terminal in Prague. You say goodbye, you shed your tears and that’s it. The finality of the moment doesn’t feel like something you enact, it just happens. That these physical things like street corners, doors and walls have such a decisive role in the pausing of a relationship, makes me feel a little powerless. Why can’t I open that door, turn that corner, get off that plane? I know my body can do these things, but why can’t I?
I want to bring “Blue Jay” to you if you also feel daunted by the weeks to come, by the uncertainty of the future, by the mistakes you might have made during your time at Bowdoin, at the relationships and people who might similarly turn into Question Marks or be blurred out completely, that moving on is hard. It’s not pretty, and having to confront these things is really taxing. Seeing Jim and Amanda rush into the thick of it like they never even left each other in the first place, but also feel so strained and stressed about what has passed and how they’ve changed. I look forward to Commencement, knowing that I will feel an onslaught of conflicting emotions. To worry about these goodbyes and to dream about the future reunions you’ll have is just a part of living. And truthfully, I’d much rather have these things float in the air around me always than not at all.
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