There’s an emptiness in this house. It lingers on the furniture, weaves its way into the cloths, drapes itself over the windows and hangs on every chandelier. It weighs on my shoulders, a constant reminder of your absence.
I used to hate this reminder. I chased it away with music, work, anything I could use to distract myself, however futile the efforts were. I ran from it, buried it, masked it, denied it.
The nights were the worst. In that half-awake, half-asleep stage where I could almost believe that I heard your voice, that you may have still been here. You weren’t, but I could have believed it.
The emptiness bears down with a physical weight. It became harder and harder to pretend it didn’t exist. People would come with gifts—flowers and cards to alleviate the pain. Like flowers and cards could ever replace your presence. The sentiment was nice, though.
I trudged through it, day after day. It clung to my legs and gripped my shoulders with talons. I practiced smiling, pulling my lips up against the weight that tore them down. The mirrors mocked me in private.
I used to try to run.
But then I learned to embrace it.
The quiet moments that used to be filled by your laughter once bothered me. I have since learned to bask in them, allowing the echoes of your joy to wash over the scars of your absence.
Your empty plate at the table used to scorn me. Now I smile in the solitude, remembering your brilliance and wit.
The bed you left unoccupied used to chase me from our room. But now, moments of solitude on that mattress help me to remember who I am.
Who I was.
Who I’ve become.
I do not think I will ever ‘get over’ you, or move on, as they say. You are too deeply wound into the fabric of my being, and besides, I’ve begun to realize I don’t want to forget. I used to try everything to silence the memories, but I’ve outgrown that.
And I do not think that the memories will ever be void of pain. As much as they are memories of what we had, they are also memories of what I’ve lost. As such, there will always be a lingering emptiness wafting through them.
Some things have changed forever, and not all of them for the best.
I still remember the shredding agony the day you left. It pierces through me every time I see your sweater, still hanging on your favourite hanger in the closet.
I still remember the last words we traded. They whisper in my ear every time I pass your picture on the fridge.
The ache is like a shadow, sometimes innocuous, but always there.
Some things have changed for the best, though.
I remember the curiosity that drove you from one adventure to another. It still pulls me into the unknown, even today.
I remember the humour you could find, even in the dreariest of moments. You’ve taught me to laugh when I thought I couldn’t.
I remember the look in your eyes when the world happened to please you, a glitter in the dark as you grinned for no particular reason.
You’re gone now. And I’m not. And I’m relearning how to navigate a world without you by my side. I won’t pretend that it’s easy—I know some people do, but I won’t. It’s kind of pointless.
I still look back. But every time I venture to the memories, I discover a new treasure I forgot I’d lost. Like the time we got lost on our way up north, and wound up in the wrong province. Or the time that we wound up staying up all night, talking about that dumb TV show that neither of us liked. The way it felt, knowing that for a moment, I had someone who’d always be in my corner.
Whenever I lose sight, I look back to the memories. They help glue this fractured house back together.
There’s an emptiness that lingers here. But it’s not really emptiness, is it? It’s a clean slate. It’s a fresh start. It’s the end of our chapter, and the start of something new. I remember you said that once: we grieve what we lost, but we often forget to look at what we’ve found. The emptiness is room for new opportunities, new growth, new lessons. I just never really thought of it that way.
I know you tried telling me. It was hard to understand your riddles, but I’m beginning to make sense of them. The memories decode your messages, uttering secrets that I never fully grasped.
Now, I’m standing in front of the notice in the magazine.
MIA: Local Soldier Lost at Sea after Battle.
Soon enough, they changed your status to KIA. I still have the medals of honour you were awarded, although I don’t know if anyone ever had the chance to tell you.
If you were still here, you’d laugh at me for being so sentimental. You’d tell me it’s just a star-shaped badge, and you’d probably make some ridiculous comment about my choice of outfit. It was your very own brand of humility, I suppose.
I fold the magazine closed, and carefully slip it into the binder with all of our photos. I still have it, tucked away in the front hall shelving unit.
Having secured the folder in its customary location, I slip on my coat and venture outside. I’ve been doing this more often—getting outside, that is. I know it’s what you’d want.
We may have been separated—not by any of our own doing, of course. And as time passes, it begins to feel like ages ago—a lifetime ago—that you and I were side-by-side. I forget that it's been three years. It seems so long--and yet not so long.
Time has a funny way of folding.
Even though time is passing, we built these foundations, and they have outlasted the passage of time so far. They will continue to persist, even as the days change, seasons alter, and eras shift. I know that these foundations will remain.
I know that you’ve permanently changed me.
And for that, I thank you.