He was walking
He always walked like this. He never knew where he was walking, only why. He was walking because of the feeling. Rather, he was walking because of the lack of a feeling, because of the emptiness. The fact that deep down inside, there was nothing there. He wanted to find a way to fill that nothing, that emptiness. Once there was a girl. She had filled that void. When he was with her, everything was all right, and he didn’t feel so empty, so all alone. But she was gone now. She had moved, moved off to a better life, and left him alone, once again, with the emptiness inside him. So he walked. As he walked, he remembered the girl, and how she had made him feel. He remembered her smile, and it made him feel sad. He wondered what would have happened if he had told her how he had felt. He wondered if she would have stayed, just for him. He knew she still would have left him, he knew it. But he couldn’t help but wonder. So he kept walking, so that he could beat the emptiness today, so that he could fight it off for another hour.
He always walked from his house, through the path behind his backyard, and into the woods, until he reached the main road. There were many different paths that led to the main road, and he was never sure which one he would take, he never knew how he would end up at the main road, he just knew he would get there. At the main road, there was a gate. By the time he got to the gate, he was usually feeling a bit better, and he could walk home without the feeling. That was what he loved those walks back, without the emptiness. He loved that hour or two before it returned. These walks were his release, if just for a little while. He was sure that without these walks, he would have gone mad long ago. So he walked.
He walked passed the creek, where there were several small children gathered, catching frogs. He remembered the times when he was young, and he would go and catch frogs with his father. He didn’t have the emptiness back then, those were happy times. He remembered how his father used to wade into the water with a net trying to catch frogs for him. He thought of his father now. Distant, there was no real relationship between father and son now, just a rift, emptiness, a nothing. He wondered what had happened to him and his father. How had they grown so far apart? What had happened to them? Could he have done something long ago that would have prevented this rift from forming? As he contemplated this, he walked along the side of the creek, up to the baseball diamonds before the forest.
As he passed the baseball diamonds, he came to another bridge, overlooking a beautiful stream. He had always thought that this was one of the most beautiful things he had ever seen. Every time he passed by it, he thought of a girl. Not the girl that had moved away, that had left him. But of a girl he barely knew. She had been in one of his classes in school she had sat a row over from him. He thought she was the most beautiful person he had ever seen in his life. He used to spend the entire class just sneaking glances at her, admiring her beautiful face, and picturing himself with her. He wondered what it would be like to hold her. He used to dream about her at night. He was always wondering whom did she dream about. He knew it wasn’t him, and that it never would be. This made him sad, and just contributed to the emptiness inside him. As he stared into the stream, he thought about her. He wondered what would have happened if he had tried to talk to her, just once. He wondered if anything would have come of it. He always thought of the past in ways like this. If he had just talked to her, could he have been with her right now? He wondered if she could have stopped the emptiness, if she could have made him feel complete, just like the other girl, the one who had moved away, who had left him. Today the stream did nothing to him. It did not move him. He did not find it beautiful today. Today it seemed dull. The emptiness had gotten to it before he had. Now the stream was nothing, it wasn’t beautiful anymore. He turned, and kept walking, into the forest, towards the main road.
He entered the forest, and stopped to look around. He felt the fresh air enter his nostrils. It was like the air had not been outside the forest. It had not been spoiled by the people on the outside. He knew this was not true, but he liked to pretend, it made his walks seem more special, it made it easier to beat the emptiness. He continued walking into the forest, leaving the world behind him. He came across the tree. He remembered one time, years ago, when he had gotten in trouble from his parents for having poor grades in school. He had come to the tree, and climbed high into its branches. He had contemplated jumping down to the ground. He had wanted to die. He could still remember that moment clearly, perched high in the tree, surrounded by that fresh air, looking down at the ground below. He had felt the emptiness then. Was that where it had started? He couldn’t remember anymore. It seemed so stupid to him now, getting upset over school grades. They didn’t really matter! The only thing that mattered to him now was the emptiness, and trying to find a way to fill it. Again, his mind went back to that day in the tree, and he thought what if he had jumped that day? Fallen from the tree? He thought to himself would anyone have missed him? Probably not, he concluded. Everyone was too wrapped up in their own lives. They would have moved on, and left the memory of him behind them. Just like the girl had left him behind. He kept walking past the tree, he could hear the traffic now, and that meant he was close to the main road. Close to salvation, close to beating the emptiness for another hour. So he walked on, longing for the gate on the main road to ease his pain.
He walked on, and as he got closer, the sound of the cars grew louder and louder, and the air got less and less fresh tasting, and took on an almost putrid aroma. He came out of the forest and saw the main road. He walked to the gate, but he felt worse. The emptiness was not gone today. It was still with him. He remembered the first walk he had ever taken with the emptiness, and how good it had felt for him on the walk back home. That day, he thought he had beaten the emptiness forever, only to have it return that night. As he thought about this, he realized that was his problem. He remembered too much. He wanted to forget it all. His father, the beautiful girl, the day in that tree. He didn’t want to remember any of it, all of these things, and so many other painful memories had contributed to the emptiness that he still had. Standing by the main road, he didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t walk back home feeling like this. His escape had been ruined. As he thought, he saw that across the main road, there was a large field, full of dandelions, swaying in the breeze. He looked back in the direction of home, then across at the field. He thought of the girl that had left him behind and he made a decision. He turned away from home, stepped over the gate, and headed towards the field. He would keep walking, he decided. He would walk until the emptiness was gone, and then he would walk some more. He thought of all the memories he would leave them behind. He would leave them all behind, just like the girl had done to him. She had left him alone, to face this by himself. He knew he would never find the girl. He didn’t want to. He just wanted to keep walking until the emptiness was gone. As he entered the field, a strange feeling passed over him, a feeling he hadn’t felt in a long time. He cracked a sad smile to himself and kept walking.