All The Empty Spaces

General By Dominique Molter |

I always turn up the radio just a little too loud when I drive to drown out the sound of silence. “You’re going to blow out your eardrums,” my father complains when he hears the bass thumping from down the street, but it doesn’t even occur to him that maybe that’s the point. I used to say I preferred bad things to neutral things, preferred grueling days to boring ones, preferred pain to total nothingness. I’ll take the tinnitus if it means I don’t have to think about all the things missing in this moment. Like your laugh, the way it tumbled out of your mouth and straight into my bloodstream, the sweetest high I’ve ever known. Like your breaths, soft and slow on those long late night drives when you fought to stay awake beside me. Like your voice, how it always lowered an octave when you’d open up to me, unwrapping yourself like a present for my own greedy pleasure. Like that giant empty space in the passenger seat that no volume of music ever seems to fill, so I collect ticket stubs and take-out bags and old pairs of shoes and pile them so high that I almost trick myself into believing someone’s there. I have a bad habit of creating temporary solutions for long-term problems, putting bandaids on broken bones and drinking away the pain. Like burying an empty picture frame at the bottom of a drawer so I won’t notice you missing from inside it, then finding it months later and hiding it somewhere else. Just throw it away, I tell myself after the tenth time I find it, this time between stacks of paperwork. But it feels too much like a betrayal, because even though your picture’s long gone, the memory is still there, and memories are the only things I’ve never learned how to really get rid of. So I keep hiding that goddamn picture frame and I keep clearing out an empty spot on my shelf for the book you borrowed but never gave back and I keep checking my phone at 2 p.m. sharp, even though it’s been long enough to know I won’t find your messages there anymore. Still, I always wonder if you’re somewhere looking at the clock or if you’ve already forgotten all our little routines or, worse, if they belong to someone else now. Was our love one size fits all? Or is there anything reserved just for me? Do I have a spot on your bookshelf or an empty pane in a picture frame or a space in your passenger seat nothing ever seems to fill? It’s these questions that keep me up late at night, that keep me tossing and turning in a bed that’s grown much too big for me. Thank god I sleep on a new mattress now, one that’s never known the weight of you, one that’s never been given the chance to drown in all the empty spaces you left behind.

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