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How To Fill An Empty Space.

Mainza was 19 years old when he first felt it, the empty space. It was as though someone had stuck a pen through his heart, leaving a hole that only he could feel, as though somebody had drilled their hand into his life and made off with a part that made it whole, a part that held it together. It felt as though his life were a puzzle with a missing piece that he had only now become aware of, as though that part, that piece was what he needed to be “happy”. Happiness. What did that even mean? He often wondered. He wondered what made people happy, if people were ever truly happy. He wondered if he was the only one who was unhappy. He wondered if he was the only one who felt that empty space within a whole, the only one who saw that tiny speck of brown that blemished what would otherwise be an array of white, if he alone did not know how to fill it, how to clean it off. He often wondered if his life had ever been complete, if he had ever truly been happy. Perhaps he wanted to be happy so bad that he had convinced himself that he was. He often had trouble distinguishing what he felt from what he wanted to feel, distinguishing reality from his skewed perception of it.

Sometimes, he felt guilty for feeling incomplete, for being unhappy. There he was in his dorm room abroad, his tuition fees fully paid off, a stipend deposited into his bank account at the end of every month, food readily provided for him, clothes of his back, shoes on his feet. He had everything he needed. He did not particularly need to worry about anything. He never had to. He had a good upbringing, raised in a loving home. His father had died when he was younger, but his mother had done a great job playing the role of both parents. She made sure that he always had everything he needed and wanted. She made sure that he did not ever lack, that he did not ever wish his dad had been alive. She made sure that he did not get to see the harsh realities that life had shown her. He had what most would call a soft upbringing, being well watered and well fed. But he had always felt that his upbringing was mired in dissatisfaction, that he had eternally been conditioned to look somewhere else for better as though better lay always in that somewhere else, in that something. And so even when everything was okay, he was taught to always wish for more. Perhaps that is why he was never truly content, why he had everything but felt in need, why he felt an emptiness now.

On some days, his skin felt too clammy, too heavy, too loose, as though it were not his own, as though it had simply been thrown on, as though it did not fit him. He often wanted to run away from himself, to shed off his skin and don a new one. He often felt the urge to escape, to run and run and never stop. Sometimes, it just exhausted him – the empty space- it wore him out, made him weary of... well, everything. On some days, he felt like a stranger in his own body, like he did not belong there, like his heart and his mind were two bickering siblings whose squabble he could not settle. He felt out of place too often within himself, as though he were meant to stay there only a while before leaving, as though he were only visiting. And on other days, he felt guilty for feeling guilty, and so he revolted against himself, against his mind, against the voice that told him how he was being ungrateful, how he was being a spoilt brat. On those days, he told himself that this was normal, that this was a human thing, that it was okay for him to be unhappy and not know why, to be sad despite having because having did not directly entail happiness, that happiness had to be found all on its own.

He wondered now, as he felt this empty space, whether it had always existed, whether it had been an ever-abounding presence in his life that he had been shielded from by living the way he was expected to, by living other people’s lives. He wondered if he felt this way now because he was not trying to be what everyone else wanted him to be. He was finally trying to be his own person, and he did not know who that person was. He wondered if he had been happy all his life up to this point because he really was or because he was supposed to be.

He lay in the darkness of his room, tossing and turning, as though the thoughts that flooded his mind pushed his body from one side to another. He tilted his head so that he faced the door. He saw a tiny strip of light creep underneath the door and break what had seemed like a continuous darkness. It reminded him, the strip of light, of what he felt his life was like right in that moment. It felt as if it had previously been whole, like the darkness, but tiny strips of unhappiness, of empty spaces started to creep in from beneath him. He lay his head back onto his pillow and pulled his phone from underneath it. He then typed into the tiny search-box that flashed on the screen, “How to fill an empty space.”

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