The Hollow Place

One word of backtalk too many and the day boiled over into hot tears—the kind that choke, that blind. My son didn’t know what to make of the blotchy-faced monster who hauled the car over the side of the road and sobbed.

Those days were hard. My work environment required me to pretend I was many things I was not, and maintaining the illusion exhausted me. There wasn’t enough money in the bank and the precarious tightrope walk of which bill not to pay left me anxious and headachey. The tears did nothing to alleviate the financial strain, and frankly they made the headache worse.

There was a conspiracy of misery that night. Just before the backtalk that broke the dam, R.E.M.’s Everybody Hurts came on the radio. The DJ didn’t know the song drags a sack of grief up from the dark place in my heart. But there is was, a little bit open at the top, the festering contents of loss breathing out into the atmosphere of the car—a gas leak waiting for a tossed match.

I’d tried to write earlier in the day, but the words wouldn’t come, dammed up behind the pretense and the fear.

I’d fed the stress on a diet of poor choices and excess, soothing the savage voices in my heart with flavor and texture on my tongue, but my body better understood that it had been a mistake. Self-loathing feels like a snug-waistband and bloated ankles. Self-loathing feels like dry mouth and belly ache.

The exhaustion, the grief for the choices I hadn’t made and for a friend lost a half century ahead of schedule, the frustration of writer’s block, poured out like the sticky and viscous fluid from a lanced wound, but what they left behind began to heal.

Pulling the car back onto the road and sniffling my way home, a very silent child in his car seat behind me, I allowed the space where the tears had been to breathe, to be empty and peaceful. When I arrived home I brought my son inside and held tight to to him and to his father. I showered away the tear tracks and slept away the tired eyes.

I shared the tears with all of you, and you filled the hollow place with joy.

Write on Edge: RemembeREDSelect an old blog post you’ve written and rewrite it as a memoir piece. The original can be found here.