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    My daily writing--emails, journal entries, marginalia, more emails, blog posts, and tweets--shapes me as a writer, helping and hindering the big stuff I'm trying to accomplish. Every word counts.

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Blank Space

A friend of mine died yesterday. The shock began to wear off this morning when I went through my bank’s drive-thru. The teller smiled as she greeted me, processed my transaction, and wished me a good day. “You, too,” I said, as I usually do when a retail or service worker says something like that. It seems unfair to let them give away all their good wishes, even when they don’t mean it, and even if I don’t really feel they deserve reciprocation.

This teller seemed sincere, though, and my return of her “good day” surprised her, which surprised me. This moment happened as I let off the brake and the car rolled away from the window.

Maybe it’s easy for strangers to show kindness, and maybe that’s the rush. It felt good to have that connection, and even better not to have to sustain it. As I pressed the accelerator, I overflowed, felt tears rolling down my face as I choked on a sob. I could picture the empty spot left by my dead friend.

In that moment, that blank space imploded. Everything in my life shifted a little to fill it. I felt the momentary jolt, and will suffer a few days of tenderness as I adjust, get used to the idea–and the fact–that he is outside of my life now. No less important. But I won’t pass him on the road anymore. There’s no chance he’ll call me up for coffee and a chat.

His partner, also my friend, will surely have a more difficult time adjusting to his absence. The blank space will probably remain empty for him. At best, it may fill in slowly.

I dread knowing what that feels like, of seeing the place on the sofa where my partner–I’m too superstitious to mention his name in this context–used to sit or feeling the silence that should be filled with his obnoxious whistling of made-up songs. His presence, his habits, are as annoying, as unremarkable, as my own. It can be hard to realize, but there’s a difference between the shared blankness you create by taking someone for granted and the blankness that is yours alone–an open wound that will never quite heal.

By the time I finished driving to work today, I was tear-stained and ready for a nap. My day had more high points than I expected because life really does go on. Then I read the obituary. It’s a beautiful piece, calling him his partner’s “golden light.” This sketch of his life reminds me that words can only do so much, even as they tear a hole in me, bringing fresh pain that I can’t not feel.

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6 Responses

  1. hugs

    that’s tragic..

    i don’t know you, but your words express your pain amazingly and i think your friend was lucky to have you as a friend

  2. my condolences.. how sad.

    ~m

  3. I’m so sorry for your loss.

    The hole? Always hurts, though not as bad as at first.

  4. Thanks to all. This kind of thing is not new to me; just out of practice.

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