I was empty long before you offered to fill me with the emptiness served even from the good plates, and still I pushed it away and excused myself from the table, but you continued to prepare meal after meal and I’m stuffed. Engorged with decades of emptiness I binged on trying to fill myself with everything just to know what happiness tasted like, but I was only feeding the self deprecation. I was only chasing the thought of a dream, I am tired. Ideas spin inside like fiction trying to be true and my mouth is raw from the fairy tales that swirl around and I’ve never tasted the proof. You used to say, “As long as you’re happy, that’s what matters.” But I didn’t get the toolbox to fix what’s broken. I just smile on cue, flip the switch to make my eyes light up when my lips curve to the sky, and my heart hits bottom. My spine comes loose, wraps around the edges found along the bottom where the dark took all the light and the stars don’t show me the way there. It’s the whisper of my inner voice I follow and I’m lost. Once there was a lasso that hung from the moon in my eyes when I was young, I just grabbed it like a lifeline that never stopped beating and it saved me. Until the day it decided to flatline like a dream that always raises its hands to reach for you gives up and never reaches again. Like a storm came through and took the universe away and the blackout continues when the storm is over. The lights never came back on. The vices that grew me didn’t reach my bones. I didn’t memorize the parts of the lesson without an exit, but I took notes on the ones that taught me how to get the hell out of anywhere that didn’t have windows to climb through. I learned how to make the light come in through the smallest crack, even if I had to use my empty toolbox to smash the wall into a window. When the storm stayed, the mountains I saw in my dreams crumbled, and there was nothing left to climb, so I carried it. I’ve always been carrying this. Even the silence of the flatline is heavy and all these years that came with it are loud from not living at all. I always wondered about the vices people reach for to quiet down the noise when their minds don’t let thoughts rest. I never understood it before. Chalked it up to a choice of becoming one bad decision after another and another and the cycle never stops. I always looked at it like a train that could stop if it wanted to but it just didn’t want to. So it kept derailing when it wanted to. Kept reaching for whatever could make it crash and everyone else would be in the path of the wreckage. The flatlining years have taught me there’s more to the crash than a split second decision that jumped the tracks because it couldn’t control all that raged inside. I think I get it now. I replay the lessons from the years and look through different eyes now. Or maybe it was time that gave me a better understanding of the dark and why it stays sometimes. My toolbox isn’t always empty. Sometimes my heart is a jackhammer of multitasking and god, it can rip into the ugly of the universe and piece it back together like the most breathtaking mosaic you’ve ever seen. And sometimes it can take that same view and turn it into a sky that never stops falling into the dark and taking me with it. I understand the lessons now and what they were meant to teach me. I’m still learning some because I always did take the long way home. I’ve learned to be okay with that. I know how your mind worked. Same as mine works now but I didn’t know it back then. I know the meaning of the silences now and how loud it was in your head, even when your eyes were fixed on nothing, I know… it was everything and nothing and too much and never enough. I understand the vices we sometimes reach for to tune it all out is not so much a mirror of our self control but a reflection in our own eyes crying out for help. There’s desperation hidden inside sometimes and we reach for things to fill it and we destroy things to fight it. I understand your demons now and sometimes I’m still up all night trying to make sense of my own, chasing invisible ghosts in the dark, but this is all part of it right? The meaning of life. Maybe the part where we finally hush the noise of our own thoughts and hear what they’re saying is when we know we made it. I’m sorry you didn’t make it this far, but just know, there are so many dark nights when I’m chasing who I am, I see a tiny light popping through the cracks of me.. and it’s you. It’s you. Trying to light the way for me like you always did. All the things I’ve carried and all I refuse to put down, I have carried part of you with me so you can finally see through the dark and walk this journey with me to make sense of it all. I didn’t want you to miss it. I bet it’s a beautiful journey when it doesn’t hurt anymore. The light in my eyes is yours; you paved my way with it. I share it with others sometimes so they can feel a piece of my heart and where it came from.