The Empty Passenger Seat
My passenger seat is empty as I look out the window, hoping to see anything that looks familiar. Within the last two hours, I swear I’ve seen that gas station twice, and that pink house at least seven times. I mumble to myself that I wish you were here, but know that isn’t going to happen. Still, to make things easier on myself, I pretend to have company, and yours is as good as any.
I tell you how my life has been since I last saw you, one month to the day. Already my bones ache waiting just to hug you, or punch you. I haven’t decided. It’s hard not seeing your best friend for so long and the separation has lingered and taken it’s toll on me. I wonder if the same is true for you or not.
I’ve never been in this area before. I know you grew up here, and all I want to do is see you once more, but there goes that gas station again, and I realize I went in another circle. If hell were a road map, I begin to think it would look something like your hometown.
Finally, I get into a stretch of land that doesn’t contain that fucking gas station, and floor the gas pedal. The car seizes slightly at the sudden acceleration and I debate the speed I’m climbing to. Would you be going this fast? Would you be letting me go this fast if you were with me? In my mind I can see you shaking your head, fearing for your life, and it brings a tear to my eye. I need to see you soon.
I see a fence that should be more familiar than it is. Then again, I’ve only seen it once. At the time, I wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to come here again, but I knew that you were expecting me. In my mind I see a wrap around porch, and you sitting on it drinking lemonade with your mother. Then again, I don’t know if you drink lemonade. Instead, the hallucination turns the liquid into soda, and I chuckle, replaying all the times you’ve stolen other people’s drinks. It’s too cold outside for you to be sitting on the deck, but the last time I saw you, it was sunny, so give me some leeway.
The driveway is bumpier than I remember. Then again, when I peeled out last time, there were tears in my eyes. I didn’t know the next time I’d be able to see you again, and that killed me inside. This time, my head was clear, for the most part, except I couldn’t remember exactly which place was yours.
There were three different mini-roads to choose from and I chose the first. Last names were printed down the aisles, and I lost my temper slightly when I didn’t see yours. It was the same story for the second choice. I chuckled a little bit at myself, being lost for the zillionth time today. I couldn’t wait to see you to tell you the same story, but then again, you wouldn’t expect anything different from me, would you?
I turned into the last driving area, and began reading; Colliard, Stickler, Assman (I swear to God, it said Assman, I made a mental note to tell you that you were next to someone with the last name Ass-man). Finally in the last stretch, I see what I’m looking for, Wheeler.
I hold my breath and turn off the ignition. The month before plays and replays in my head nearly bringing me to tears, again. I step out of the car onto the snow, forgetting that the plows never come near here. Your mother used to complain to me about it, but you never seemed to care. How could you?
The place is empty as I walk closer to you. I wonder if you can see me from where I’m at. Two more steps, and I can see your name clearly. If this were your house, I would be knocking on the door right now. Only instead, I’m kneeling, having the wind knocked out of me looking at your name carved in marble.
I trace my fingers along your name, and the two dates: born on, died on, and I fall apart reading the letters from just a month ago. No one expected you to get your headstone so quickly, and even I was amazed at how beautifully it came out. If I didn’t know better, I would assume that your mom paid more so that you wouldn’t have an unmarked grave for too long.
My heart pours out to you, aching for a hug, a glance, anything that would bring me closer to you. But nothing will. I’m still adjusting to being without you. It’s difficult to go from having a sister to talk to everyday, no matter the distance, to visiting a cemetery once a month and having a headstone replace a face.
As promised, I told you about Mr. Assman, and my lack of direction. It helps to imagine you laughing. I stay for longer than expected, and once the tears dry, I’m back in the car headed back home. I roll down the window and call you “See you next month” just in time to watch the wind pick up outside the car. I think it’s you telling me “I’ll be here”, and I laugh bitterly. Though it’s freezing outside, I put my hand out the window and try to catch your words and hold onto them the entire way home, praying that this time, I don’t get lost.