empty space by Rebecca Suzuki

We are in the apartment filled with his things, the things I helped him move from his old apartment just a year ago. We’d parked the U-Haul in front of a precinct and not even a minute after he left to ask where he was supposed to park the truck to unload it, an officer came and told me to move it. “I can’t drive this thing,” I told him, and he had me point to the person who was driving it. It felt wrong, like I was pointing at someone in a lineup, but I pointed anyway to the back of G’s head and said, “That’s him over there. That’s my partner.”

“Are you sure you won’t at least consider it?” I ask. It’s a practiced line. It used to be a plea, but now it’s gone stale. It’s lost its vigor. I’m not sure how many times I’ve asked this question. Even with the lack of passion, it still makes G wince every time I ask, like someone is squeezing his stomach. “No, I can’t make you do it,” he says, another practiced line.

We are standing in the kitchen. A year ago, I was unboxing and putting away all the spices, plates, pots and pans. We cooked our first meal together: ramen in a rich broth for his parents, who waited for lunch like hungry children. My legs lose strength as I think of all of the things we must get rid of, all of the purging, because there is no way we can keep it all.

The evening before, we sat on the couch facing the TV, watching a documentary about dancing birds in the jungle. We watched a small, dull bird build a tower of twigs over the span of seven years. We watched him decorate it with rotting berries from the ground and we watched as he echoed all the sounds he’d heard in his life: the sounds of dogs barking, woodchopping, humans talking, children playing. We watched it in silence, in awe that something so incredible existed in our world. When the female bird was finally impressed, they flapped their wings together briefly and she was gone again. “That’s it?? All that hard work for that?” G was joking, but also not.

Over the next year, we built our own tower of twigs. He was finally in the same city as me, after four years of loving each other over a distance. He still worked the demanding shifts at the hospital, but we could finally see each other whenever we wanted. In the beginning, we’d joked, “What if we’re too close now and break up?” but it never felt like we were too close. It felt like we were finally close enough.

“I don’t want you to go,” I finally blurt out. His eyes have taken on a darker color lately. The green speckles I used to see are gone.

He gives me a silent hug. It’s not enough. I want to push him away, but I realize that he needs this too. I let our hug last. I release the air suffocating my lungs when he finally lets go.

In a week, he will leave me. He will leave everything he worked to get but didn’t, because it was just out of reach. He will fly back to his home and start all over again. I will stay here, in the empty space he left behind. I will calmly take the elevator downstairs to return both of our keys, because none of it really belonged to us in the first place.


Rebecca Suzuki is a recent grad of the MFA program at CUNY Queens College in Literary Translation and Creative Writing. She currently teaches writing there and at Montclair State University. Her other pieces have appeared in Communion arts journal, The Bookends Review, Blue Earth Review, and forthcoming in KGB Bar Lit.

Art by Dave Gregory