The Empty Places

My job takes me deep in the woods, behind shopping plazas, and to abandoned lots. I visit the places customers and residents don’t see, the places in transition, about to become something new.

The wild areas are lush with life and death. The abandoned places are different. Their history clings to them. People leave pieces of themselves behind.  Sometimes only trash.  Sometimes whole parts of their lives. Their presence is palpable, these past people, but the spaces are empty.

These are the empty places. I’m drawn to them. I make up their stories, to fill in the gaps.

Once upon a time, there was a house on the edge of the forest, and no one had lived there for a very long time.

A railroad track ran by the house.  It was awfully close. The cacophony surrounded the family who lived there. Anyone would have gone mad from the din. That’s what people said, after it happened.

The forest grew taller and spread until limbs covered the sky, and the sun stopped shining on the empty house. The house lost its color in the shade. Its paint faded to a dull earth tone.  If I looked away, I couldn’t remember if it was gray or brown.

The house lost its window panes, and the door fell from its hinges. And it sat open, inviting anyone to move in. But trains rattled and whined next to it, scaring away animals that might take refuge. Only the earless moved in, crawling through the leaves that gathered around the house.

The figure in the window was earless, too. The one crouched inside, looking out.

But that was just a shadow, I’m sure of it. It turned as I passed by because the light shifted. The house was abandoned, and no one had lived there for a very long time.

It was an empty place.

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