{the story of a girl}

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Empty Seat

The following is a piece I entered into a writing contest. It was posted on my old blog and I'm republishing it here. Enjoy.

The Empty Seat

Sometimes, when the nights seem to last forever and the luminescent moon begins to crest over the desert foothills, I get in my car and drive. The destination is unknown; the only thought is escape. I quietly pull out of my driveway and head toward the Superstitions, their bulk rising in the blackened sky like a harbinger. The roof goes back, the windows go down, the hair goes up. It’s a ritual I’ve perfected and have come to long for on sleepless nights. Nights when the past is too close and peace of mind is unattainable.

I drive on through the desert, soaking the emptiness into my veins and allowing the loneliness to bathe every nerve in emotion. Becoming consumed with introspection, I fail to notice the deepening of the night and the gathering of clouds. I know only the thoughts churning about in my head. Thoughts for which there is no explanation and from which there is no refuge.

The past is always with me, a wraith in the shadows of my mind. When does a broken heart begin to heal? How long can the spirit live until the crushing weight of love lost shatters it? I don’t have the answers, only the questions and the pain. The first drops of rain fall from the sky and mingle with the tears coursing down my cheeks, each undistinguishable from the other. I long for nothing more than to be absorbed by the desert, to feel the release of sorrow and anguish as I meld into the parched soil.

Eight years have passed since I lost him. Eight years for the pain to sear every fiber of my being and consume all my thoughts. I can’t let go. I’m not sure I want to. There is a sweetness in the ache I feel inside when memories of him boil to the surface and cause me to catch my breath. When I close my eyes, his face floods my mind and memories of his touch linger upon my skin. It’s not enough to simply remember; I want to relive every moment we spent together.

Driving through the tangle of cacti and tumbleweeds with the moon glowing in the black sky and rain gently falling like the tears of God, it’s easy to imagine him sitting next to me. He reaches out and turns the radio station, searching for a song he likes. He looks at me with a twinkle in his eye knowing how I hate it when he channel-surfs. He reaches over and pulls my hand from the steering wheel, taking it into his own and caressing it. I turn and smile at the empty seat beside me, seeing his lips form a grin in response. No words are said, it is simply enough to feel him with me.

Memories pass wordlessly between us, thoughts and feelings woven into the fabric of time. Every second we spent together is written upon the pages of my life creating a book that I want to read forever. A story that encompasses when my existence began and when it ended.

At moments like these, when the rain and wind is whipping through the car and lashing at my face, I can forgive him for leaving. My heart understands even when my mind can’t begin to comprehend. The reason why is never spoken, only embedded into my soul to be remembered on moonless nights and rain drenched mornings. To be recalled in those moments when the will to go on has evaporated and the ache has lost its sweetness.

A stray bolt of lightning illuminates the road ahead and I recognize the path that brought me here. As the first city lights twinkle into view and the rain slows to a drizzle, the image beside me begins to shimmer and I know he is leaving again. The overwhelming pain rushes in and crushes my lungs, leaving me breathless. I struggle to keep the car on the road despite the ocean of tears in my eyes and the sorrow that threatens to tear me apart. The only comfort I find is in knowing he will be there again tomorrow night, in the empty seat beside me.


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