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An Empty Chair

He's sitting there, television blaring and a haze of smoke is swirling around him.
I'm doing dishes and cleaning jelly off from the counter and mopping and vaccuming and dusting. I'm content, enjoying the bad audio of the 1930's movie playing on his T.V.
He starts coughing right when I take the cap off a juice.
I go to watch him over the counter and he's coughing with his cigarette in his hand and I want to go over and take his carton and run over it and I wonder why he doesn't quit he's so old.
I bring him fresh water to replace the one sitting next to him that's been there for at least a day.
I sit down and he's watching Gone With the Wind with that dreamy Clark Gable. He's telling me what's happening and who the actors are and I'm laughing, ignoring how the lingering smoke is burning my eyes. I'm contemplating staying and watching the whole movie but of course I don't. I go to the mall with my friends that won't be around in a year instead. I'll stay and watch movies another time, ditch my friends instead of him another time.
Fast forward six months, his house is empty, he's gone except for his box of ashes sitting on the shelf.
The house is too quiet for my comfort, no television blaring no coughing no furnace no dishwasher going.
I'm doing the very last of the dishes that family have used while staying and mourning and conversing, and I glance up sometimes, praying he just might be there.
An Empty Chair, of course.
His T.V. is gone, radio gone, table gone, display case gone, bed gone, books and movies gone.
I never stayed and watched that movie.
I never asked about his childhood, never listened even when Mom did. Never ditched my friends for him.
I choose that old glass model of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz that I've admired since I was little. I'm trying not to cry, absorbing the silence of the house.
I'm holding on tight to all I have left of him.
The house is empty, life is gone. Walls repainted, floors re-carpeted, air clear of smoke.
I'm shutting the door and looking back just once more.
And all that's left is his empty chair.
All I'm left thinking are lyrics to a sad song, and to never tell yourself, maybe tomorrow, maybe Next Time.





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