I first wrote about the presence of an empty space in a short story, where I wove in some autobiography. It was based on how I met Dee. You see when you are in a new class in primary school, you look for old friends. On the first day of fifth grade, I searched the sea of eager fifth graders, but didn’t find any familiar faces. Clutching my water bottle to my chest, I walked down the last row in search of any seat and stopped when a voice called out, “there is an empty space here.” Those words cemented a yearlong friendship of shared past, present, and future with Dee. When he skipped the sixth grade and changed schools, there was an empty space.
Friendships are gifts that I treasure. With genuine friends, I am not too careful or shy. I am me. I laugh, I cry. I sing, I dance. I scream, I vent. Through it all, they stay and when they do the same, I try to stay. Like seeds though, it takes a while for friendship to sprout into seedlings and full-fledged plants. Sometimes, a pivotal moment speeds up the germination process and a friendship is cemented in no time. Moving away is the hardest part as people cannot be easily uprooted like plants and nurtured to bloom again.
Still, there is something simultaneously terrifying and liberating when a friend moves or I move and an empty space is created. Yes, staring at that empty space hurts each day, but it is amazing to discover how it is filled over time. Of course, no two people are alike, so the space is filled up in its own way. The best part is when the space is filled by the same person again for the briefest moment, even after months and years have passed. Then, we both catch up as if we never skipped a beat.
Something similar happened today on my way to work. My commute takes about 2 hours. It starts with a 14-seater commercial bus, continues with a ferry, and ends with a modest walk amidst beeping cars, honking trailers, and terrifying motorcycles. I have discovered that listening to music eases the discomfort, so I plug in once I set out. With one earplug infusing my being with classical music, I negotiated the route with the bus conductor. With a quick glance at the bus, I was undecided about getting in, until I noticed a familiar face seated. I disregarded the daunting height of the bus that forced me to hike up my dress and raise my legs a little higher than I desired. Once again, there was that familiar pull, a friend beckoning with a smile and those memorable words, “there is an empty space here”.