To Inhabit Emptiness

Written by Thanisha Chowdhury
Art by cottonbro studio

A year after you die, you wake up in your own room and breathe like you have been there the whole time. There is nothing strange about the streams of sunlight along your floor, or the warm hum of voices in the hallway. But although this is your room, this is not your bed. And these walls are not your walls, but obscured in a new coat of paint, and your furniture has been replaced by a desk and chair and posters you have never seen before. 

It has been one year. You no longer live here. You no longer live at all, you realize, when you notice there is no dip where you sit on the comforter. There is no response when you call down the hall. 

So this is ghosthood. You walk from room to room, feel the solidity of the walls beneath your fingers. You have always hated the word ghost, the way it began so tangibly, the “h” hiding behind the harsh contour of the “g”, the draw of the “s” cut short by the curt “t”. It had a beginning and end, but the middle was what worried you. But now you find that a lingering consonant is perhaps the only thing you know to be. You want a part in the world, but it only barely remembers you. 

Your last time within these walls, you hadn’t known you wouldn’t return. It was a tragedy, really, because no one was at fault, which is to say, everyone was. The car had not come from nowhere. You had not waited for the pedestrian light to begin blinking. No one had called the ambulance in time, and once it arrived, it’s not as if you put up much of a fight for life anyway. You were gone in fifteen minutes, which you remember as if they were a distant childhood memory. 

You wander into the kitchen, much cleaner now than you were ever able to keep it. The tap is running and you ache to turn it off. Instead, you turn to the dining table. The new owners of your home are a family of four, eating their breakfast unaware of your presence, of your history here. 

You expect to feel anger. This was your home, after all, and now there is no trace of you left, discarded for the livelihood of a new generation, a new family. But you watch them pass orange juice from one side of the table to the other. You watch them spill cereal across the wooden tabletop and swat at each others’ arms to get it cleaned up. You watch them laugh at the morning cartoons, at last night’s party, at each other’s laughs, and you no longer believe they are strangers to you. 

You take a seat on the kitchen countertop, fingers curled around the sides, like you have done a thousand times before. You give up your home and become reacquainted with the soft edges of life.