An image has come up of a quietly darkened stage, slightly brighter in the centre, illuminating four empty wooden chairs. Worn oak, with armrests, no upholstery, wooden seats.
They are not perfectly lined up, but they all face towards us as we look upon them, you and I, together.
At times in my life, there were more chairs here, brighter lights, laughter. More skewed as they might be found the morning after a rather raucous party. Empty wine glasses and beer bottles and glasses, ashtrays. Warm memories of those that assembled, mostly now strangers. Only memories to connect then to now.
There were times when not a chair was in the room, just empty floor. The loneliest of times, when feeling so very alone. No chairs, no friends, no voices, memories hidden by the fog of sorrow. The room full of ache, invisible and yet tactile, the ache actually causing the lights to dim. The only sound is the gulp of my throat, choking for air, not sure whether to take a breath in or to puke it out, trying to make it my last, hoping it would be the last so that decisions would not have to be made anymore. Relieve me of the memory of breath. Relieve me of the ache that comes with breathing.
Today there are four chairs. But who knows if those seats will be there tomorrow. Those that sit in them are here of their own choosing. But will they stay? And if they leave, how will they leave? In anger, shouting? Slinking as they attempt to avoid detection? Leaving due to shame, theirs or mine? They could depart in indifference. Do they leave with my blessing? Do they leave in the middle of the night? Do they lash out? Do they cry? Do they laugh? And am I angry? Am I hurt? Do I cry, or shout, or ache?
And then, who will fill the empty seats? Anyone?
When a seat becomes empty, there is pain in watching that person walk away, their back to me, as they disappear into the margins of my life. They leave in slow motion, always. They may have appeared quickly but they depart painfully slow.