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By  Siew Bee

During my travels,
I have mastered the art of goodbye
spoken in different tongues –
au revoir, arrivederci, ciao, zai jian
but which all mean one thing:

an end,

as the supplies of euros and pounds dwindle,
the photos steadily accumulate –
your phone storage is full, please adjust your settings –
the itinerary gets increasingly pared down,
and you have no choice but to reuse your meagre inventory of clothes.

as the goodbyes you utter
to ephemeral faces
who surface shortly only to evanesce,
like water vapour before and after a humid day,
swell within you.

You collect these pebbles of goodbyes –
the ones you say and the ones you receive –
in their different shades and colours.

white for Jeremy who was like a lover and brother,
blue for the Belgian who told me her friend died in the terrorist attack,
indigo for Jonathan who bravely fought for the betterment of society,
orange for Gabriel who hiked with me under the treacherous rain.

You turn these pebbles in your palm,
chunk them into the repository of your mind,
place the lid over it,
and promptly forget about them,

until one day,

a turmoil from within
shakes the cover off,
and the pebbles come tumbling out,
one
after
the
other.