What you thought was the future disappears, all faith and belief vanishing like these swirls of smoke that roll into the distance and fade out. You knew so deeply the things that would happen, expected them like you expect the sun to rise tomorrow, with zero doubt, with zero uncertainty.
There are things you have always known would happen and these were some of them: the sun would rise and set, clouds would bring rain, air would enter your lungs if only you inhaled, water would enter if you were submerged, drowning, and you were going to get married soon. Your girlfriend was going to become your wife within the next year, no question, no doubt, just a fact of life. It was inevitable. None of your friends ever spoke any different; none of your family ever had a worrying word to share. And, if they did, they kept it silent, too sorry for you to speak out.
Everything from there on would mean something, would incorporate her into it. Anything you would ever do or anywhere you would ever go would have her injected into the very veins of these events like medicine. You have never believed in much but you believed in this, and now that belief is gone. And what does one do in a crisis of belief? How do you rebuild from this? How do you find the desire to want to? You have spent so long knowing in your heart that you would have this to count on, and now you do not, and what does that say about you? How much else might you believe in that is worth nothing? When do plans and certainties become lies and fantasies?
But she isn’t in love with you anymore and you are going to face this, you are going to suffer through the long empty spaces and pass through the hallways drained of life, the white walls looking no longer clean and bright but empty and clinical, because there are no other options.
You will try to drink it all away and see how much you can swallow up around you; consume all substances chemical and ethereal, surrounding yourself with people you will never really know. You will want to feel at home again but home is not a place you can just return to anymore. Home is a place where you are loved and you have not felt any love for you in that house in too long, just a cold shadow of ash left behind like the hugging families in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
You want to whitewash this from your life, remove all traces, singe all photographs and letters and notes and abscond from all memories tangible and intangible but you know you will not do any of these things, because without them, what is there? Your life has been decorated by these things, the walls painted red and framed photos lining the hallways of your heart. But as you recess into your own mind you find that beneath the red is a black so pure you do not know how it was ever concealed. Behind the picture frames are jagged nails that stick from the walls, pointed end facing out, as if something from the inside tried to drive them into you, tried to pierce through the only thing keeping it from clawing its way into your chest and filling every empty space within, if only you would let it. Maybe you will this time, unhinging your jaw to swallow up all in sight as black tendrils reach out of you, pulling all they can find deep within, wanting to fill the spaces left behind if only for a moment.
You go to a party and get drunk for the first time. Your ability to repress your feelings begins to come out, blocking all internal thought up like the plug in a bath, and you begin to learn that alcohol makes this a superpower. You are no longer repressing, simply forgetting, and find yourself capable of turning off all thought, the low rumble of trains beneath the surface of your brain no longer rattling the China in the cabinets. You suddenly love everyone, enjoy everything, and you are out of the labyrinth that exists only in your own head, the one you thought you shared with the girl who’s name you cannot even think of, let alone the life you were building with her, four long years spent and lost. Right now you are taking your first hit of weed and hating the burning you feel in your chest, loathing the smoke in your throat as you cough it out and go back to drinking faster than anyone else around you.
You go for a ride in a car that, when you see it parked beside the others on the front lawn at the first party you have been invited to, you must lay your arms across the roof and trunk and say “Is this your car? This is amazing!” You have never been one for car culture and could never tell a Chrysler from a Chevy without looking at a logo, and even then it might require the name to be written beneath it, but right now this is the nicest car you have ever seen. You almost lay in the backseat before seeing an assembly line of clothes, guitar amps and assorted junk filling half of it, so you get into the front as a girl ten years older than anyone else present sits behind you while an old acquaintance who you never really cared for but right now you love sits in the driver’s seat.
This girl, really a woman but only by technicality, is absolutely beautiful to you, her long blonde hair and petite frame, low height and constant smile the opposite entirely of the girl you are trying to ignore in your mind right now. It helps you block out the memories that pollute you like a toxin in the blood. You looked over all of the girls earlier, the ones with dark hair of no interest to you, the black hair of your now ex-fiancé too tangible of a memory, too vivid even in your newfound state of inebriation. You cannot think about much at length right now, but flashes of her require no thinking, simply muscle memory. When you use the bathroom the uncapped toothpaste on the sink reminds you of her and all of the petty arguments you had about her needing to shut it when she was done using it, a habit of hers you thought annoyed you but now you realize you miss entirely. You would slit your wrists open with the scissors beside the sink handle if it meant you could fight with her about toothpaste again.
It is the blonde ones who you think are smiling at you, talking to you and seeming inviting, warm, sweet, everything you have only fading memories of.
You have never had much self-confidence but as this woman in the backseat commends you for being “handsome” you fill with warmth and begin to believe her. You know that if you really wanted to you could have anyone, convince anyone to do anything, because as of right now you are everyone’s friend and everybody loves you. This is all you have ever wanted: to be loved by everyone. Is that so much? You love them all, too. You share your fresh sense of heartbreak and anyone who hears expresses sympathy that seems more sincere than those who really know you have offered out, and for once in your life someone saying “I’m so sorry” means something significant.
You wonder why you have never felt this happy before, this limitless and free from all self-doubt. The voice in your head that is constantly thinking, thinking, thinking all day and every night before you finally fall asleep out of desperation to drown out the thoughts is suddenly silent for the first time since you can remember and there is medicine in your blood stream, there is an antidote for all of the over-analyzing you have always done your whole life and it is right in your hand.
You look at the woman in the backseat while the driver buys cheap cigars to bring back to the party and you want to touch her, want to pull the straps of her tank top and small bra from her shoulders and see her chest, her features so unlike the girl you have been crying to sleep over these past nights, so separate and incomparable, but you have enough self-control to not, and you don’t. You could if you wanted to, though, and you know for a fact that she would invite it. You have never known this with a stranger before. It is a foreign feeling, but one you make notes on in your mind, a scientist keeping track of the results in this experiment.
When you re-enter the house there are songs you do not recognize playing but seem to love and everyone is still there. You are so happy to see all of them. You think how if this girl you miss so much was only here right now with you she would fall in love again, she would see a side of you so wonderful and interested and all of the things she has accused you of never being that she would wrap her arms and legs around your neck and waist and cling to you like in all of the movies you have always rolled your eyes at and never let go of you. You think that if only you could just see her right now, tell her everything that would come out of your smiling and blissfully unthinking face right now that it would all go back to how it was and more.
But she isn’t here, and she never will be, and when you have stopped talking and drinking and flirting and loving everyone around you and your ride is dropping you off as you run a hand across the shoulders of the woman you have been eying all night, saying you cannot wait to see her again (spoiler: you probably won’t), you know that this home you are now entering will not contain her, either.
You go to the bed you have shared for three years and lay in the center, allowing no full space to remain empty, convincing yourself nothing is any different, nothing is wrong, of course she will come back any moment and ask you to roll out of her side, lay beside you and love you once more and forever. You fall asleep thinking it has to be okay, thinking things have to fix themselves, the cynical, anxiety-ridden depressive that you are suddenly believing in optimism for the very first time, and you know – just like everything else you once knew for certain, the sun and the rain and breathing and drowning and marriage – that tomorrow your life with her will be rebuilt, she will realize how destructive and wrong she is and see that you are all she really wants.
You fall asleep knowing that things will return to the wonderful normal you used to know, will return to the sweetness and intimacy and adoration that you used to identify as a constant in the equation of your life.
You fall asleep knowing that as soon as you wake up she will be there beside you, fast asleep and curled up against your warmth. When you wake up the next afternoon, still tired and the back of your head a dull throb, you remain in the center of the bed, both sides empty in their own way.
Josh Sczykutowicz is a young author from central Florida who’s probably drinking too much coffee. Most of his work can be described as dark, alternative and literary fiction. He has been published in The Fable Online, 101 Words, and Flash Fiction Online, among others. You can Like him on Facebook, follow him on twitter @jsczykutowicz1 and on tumblr at http://joshsczykutowicz.