The Void

Illustrated by Hailey Carter

Emptiness. It eats away at your insides, twists and tangles your brain, and disintegrates your simple satisfactions. Carnivorous, relentless, it bores a hole into the human psyche. What remains? An all-consuming desire to fill the cavern in your soul. I see emptiness in many ways, big and small, all around me. In my father: a man tore apart by his failed marriage to the woman he loved the most. A certain emptiness emerges in the wake of losing someone you love: the person who makes your eyes glimmer with intrigue, the one whose soul remains unconditionally at watch for you, the one who seemingly soothes the parts of you that ceaselessly itch. There’s a certain emptiness that comes from losing this person — especially when you know, perhaps by flicking on some light in your innermost tunnels — that it was your fault. In a case like this, a rather gaping hole opens up somewhere in the self. 

Hurling vintage cars, flinging expensive homes, throwing intricate appliances, jacuzzis, boats, Italian carpets, and porcelain cups, at the void inside, he attempts to fill it. Well, it works! Partly. The momentary satisfaction derived from acquiring new items, concepts, or people to feed to the void a mere diversion. The void will always consume new distractions, sinking them deep inside and steadily growing larger.  

The fractures of a broken home wound like shards of a glass mirror one can never fully gather. My mother’s void was a softer, inner aching. Cleaning up the glass shards of divorce, she caught glimpses of her mistakes, of her dreams. Perhaps if she could just protect me, she felt, she wouldn’t have to focus on fixing herself. The void still throbbed within her, casting her dreams to the wind. Sometimes the void is a quiet whisper. It slinks into your thoughts: “Why even try anymore? It’s not worth the risk.” Have you heard it speak to you? Have you, too, felt the weight of its taunts as you lie awake at night?

Another person close to me has heard it — a boy I’ve known since childhood. Unable to accept or understand himself, he is incapacitated by the thought of letting any emotional connection get too strong. Destroying the most empathetic and caring lovers who come his way, he rips emotion from its roots. A blonde concertgoer, perhaps next a soccer star, the occasional outgoing brunette–myriad shades of the same hedon, soul-wandering. The void consumes these subjects with pleasure, giving each its momentary adoration, before sinking them into the depths. The thrill of noncommittal hook-ups pepper our lives as evasions of the self. We seek crowds, random lovers, loud rooms, because we do not know ourselves. What would happen if we sat alone, in the hushed and solitary silence of the voids within us? It is difficult to confront the emptiness. 

Indescribable trials towards intelligence. No, wait. Inimitable intellect: an indescribable trial. Ah, and so. What about me? In semantics like this, fixations on word patterns, manners of speech, we come down to my true cavern. Perception. Childhood left me doubting the validity of my voice, my intellect, my independence. To rage against the parenting contract which forbade me from making my own decisions, I threw myself into the creation of a self-image. Facing the mirror, I carved into myself, shaping a vision others would find intriguing. Slicing my authenticity with liquid eyeliner, I made myself interesting. I talked to the right people to get to the right places. Teachers perceived me as smart, my mother as kind, my friends as cute. But voids can close in on themselves. Sunken into the depths of my void was the way I perceived myself. 

The sharpest shards of yourself yield the best reflection, and sitting with these disfigured pieces of ourselves is necessary. Voids can mend if we tend to them. The thread of self reflection can begin to stitch them closed. This thread, when woven into the gauze of a change of character, can heal them completely.  

Yet for most, they lie untended. Voids grow, speckled with confusion and self-loathing. First forming within the individual, they grow to consume countries, political parties, and the fundamental fabrics of nations. Get the threads out and start sewing, or risk self-consumption.

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