Everyone believes to known what pain is, as well as how it feels. But they don’t know—you don’t know.
You don’t understand what it is to have an emptiness consume you. An emptiness that claws its way through your skin and imbeds itself in your bones. An emptiness, the weight of which more overwhelming than one may imagine.
That is pain.
I’m sure you think you’ve experienced pain—breaking your leg, skinning your knee, receiving a vasectomy—but that is physical, and it is not pain.
Pain is the ache of an organ that can never heal. Pain is the wave of an indescriptible nothingness that replaces one’s former personality. Pain is the deadening of your soul, and that is a wound which cannot heal.
That soul-sucking, heart-wrenching feeling of emptiness is an old friend of mine. It greeted me after I found my life shattered before my eyes and refuses to relinquish its ever-crippling hold on me.
Sometimes I believe the pain to be gone, but around every corner where a flicker of hope shines, that old friend of mine snatches it away and reminds me of the day everything was taken from me…the day my life was stained red. I find myself struggling to breath, as if the wind had fled my lungs, when I think on the day I met pain personally.
I cannot picture that morning without a murky crimson color plaguing the edge of my vision, nor can I delineate the moments I held my dying sister in my arms without the revisiting sensation of nauseating misery.
There was so much blood—everything was red.
My sister’s apartment had been robbed, and I opened the door in time to espy her bleeding dry atop the now soaked tiles. Rushing to her aid, I received the unwelcome privilege of discerning the last words that would touch her lips.
Hands now painted crimson and encumbered with a thick, overweight liquid, I held her. I held the body of my sister tight against my chest.
I don’t know how she was killed—be it knife or gun—and I didn’t care. Didn’t see. Didn’t ask. She was dead, the means were irrelevant.
That was the day the emptiness nestled inside my stomach, and the day I understood the meaning of pain.
Pain is not physical. Pain is the absence of that which one once had. Pain is the emptiness that weighs much more than the nothingness one may imagine. Pain is knowing that what you lost will never return.
I am reminded of that day by every flicker of light, every shade of red, every woman whom I encounter.
I am reminded of that day constantly: a flash of a head of long hair and I see my sister; a woman relaxing on the beach and I see her body; the movement of a woman’s lips and I relive her last words—those sacred words that I would never dare repeat, let alone write down.
At first, there had been people who had supported me. They had brought me food, consoled me, told me time could heal all wounds; but, as the days passed, fewer and fewer kept me in their thoughts. The check-in visits began to dwindle, and, before I knew it, I was left to my own devices.
The first day no one knocked on my door was the day the loneliness took hold of me, and as time went by, that loneliness became a crippling emptiness.
I looked in the mirror nearly a year later and found scarcely few remnants of my old self. A year later I found even fewer. And so on, until twenty years had passed, and I was but a shell, a wispy husk of my former self—unrecognizable, even to myself.
You have not experienced pain until you have experienced the loss of yourself. The endless cycle of day-in and day-out, unaware of the passing of time. Unaware of the outside world as it carries on without you. Unwilling to accept the past, and incapable of embracing the future.
This is emptiness.
This is pain.
Perhaps your life has been stained red, as mine has.
Perhaps you do know the pain of which I speak.
Perhaps you, too, are struggling to overcome this awesome juncture and have fallen prey to despair’s enticing embrace.
That one day of red destroyed me. I found myself in the wallows of despair and never found the will to pull myself out. My life passed in the blink of an eye, and all I can remember is that dreaded day. I am filled with emptiness…filled with pain.
I told you that this devastating, overwhelming feeling of nothingness and emptiness inside was the deepest, cruelest, most mortifying form of agony one can endure.
But I lied.
There is something worse, much worse, than that bone-gnawing, stomach-churning, suicide-inspiring pain: