By Lauren Belcher | email@example.com
Webster’s dictionary defines a void as: not occupied; vacant; not inhabited; deserted; containing nothing. That sounds about right.
I define a void as: sadness; depression; loneliness; fear; defeat.
For as long as I can remember, I have tried to fill the void. I’m always trying to keep myself distracted so I won’t feel like I’m alone.
It starts when I go home. I check Facebook and I have no new notifications. I check my e-mail and see that no one needs me for anything.
My homework is complete, my house is tidy…The panic sets in.
I start calling or texting everyone I know. Someone in this world has to want to hang out with me. No answers.
I put on loud music trying to fight the feeling that I know is coming. Too bad my iTunes consists of the saddest songs you’ve ever heard.
Freshman year of college, I would sit alone in my dorm for hours on end. I usually just tried to sleep away the hours, but sometimes I couldn’t.
One day, after hours of this, I got in my car and drove to Jacksonville. It’s a big city, and I knew, unlike St. Augustine, it would have what I was looking for: a pet.
I went into PetCo and walked to the section where they keep the Beta fish. They were kept in individual cups, smaller than one you would prefer for a drink. It made me sad to see them like this.
I found a beautiful red fish that had not yet lost hope. He was dancing around in his cup like he didn’t have a care in the world. I purchased the fish, along with all the other things you need to keep a fish.
$30. That’s all I had to pay for a companion. I named him Ares, the God of War.
He was so excited about his new home that he would dance. Ares made me feel like I was not alone when I was sitting in my dorm. But, like everything else, the feeling did not last long. There is only so much time you can spend watching a fish dance before you realize you’re still by yourself. That fish can’t comfort you forever.
And he couldn’t. Come sophomore year, I moved into a house off campus. Ares didn’t make the trip.
I had a small funeral for my friend in front of my new house. I like to think his passing was symbolic of the fact that I was moving on to a new part of my life.
My new room was decorated with things that were meant to remind me of all the love in my life. I hand painted all of my furniture and matched my comforter to all my accessories. It was wonderful. There were quotes on my walls and I had beautiful curtains that my mom made me. This was a place were I could feel happy.
It wasn’t long at all until I had the feelings again. I had a terrible roommate and my painted room was not enough to fill the void. I got a job on campus and started avoiding my house altogether.
One day, I went home and found I was locked out. I panicked. I didn’t have a key and would have to spend an unknown amount of time on the steps. Alone.
I sat down and I heard a noise. It sounded like purring but I couldn’t see anything. I got up and walked over to my neighbor’s side of the house and saw her. This beautiful black and white cat. She was small and had bright green-yellow eyes. As soon as she saw me, she ran up and rubbed all over my legs. I played with her almost every day after that.
A couple of months later, I was making arrangements to move into a new house. One day, I caught my neighbor outside and started talking to her. I asked about the cat and she said the cat was staying outside.
My neighbor has four cats, and they pick on the little one. Because of the stress, the little one started peeing outside of the litter box, so they put her out.
I mentioned that I would be moving to another house soon and she told me to “take the cat.” Just like that. So I did.
I named her Amarii, which is an African term that means given by God.
I did what every good pet owner should. I took her to the vet, bought her a collar and tags and gave her a ridiculous amount of toys.
She was wonderful, and for a while, I thought I had finally filled the void.
Then she got sick. Really sick. The kind of sick you can’t fix, although I tried. I spent a thousand dollars trying to save my cat’s life. I was so angry.
I put Amarii to sleep after I realized she wasn’t going to get better. I sat in that room with her. By then, she couldn’t move and just stared at me. I cried and cursed that man I don’t believe in for taking her away from me. I only had her for four months. She had just turned a year old. Given by God and then taken by God? It didn’t make sense.
Why couldn’t I have this one pure love in my life? She was something that made me feel needed and happy. She filled the void with her unconditional love. And then she was gone.
Today, I sit alone in my house and I think about adopting a cat. It’s been a year since Amarii passed and I haven’t felt the kind of happiness she brought me since.
But here’s what I came to realize: I can’t use pets to make me feel loved.
Amarii’s collar and tags hang on my wall to remind me of her. I also have her beautiful face tattooed on my shoulder. That’s all the reminder I need to remember her wonderful soul.
Now, I need to find another, more internal way to find happiness. I need to stop distracting myself and looking for alternatives to make me feel whole.
I can’t fill the void.
I need to look into why I feel the way I do. Why can’t I be OK when I’m alone? Why does that panic set in as soon as I realize I’m alone? Pets can’t replace the hole I feel. The only cure for that is a true love for me.
What can I do to feel that love again, and turn it inward? I need to fall in love with me, and enjoy my company.
Now when I feel the feeling coming back, I count out loud all of the things I’m grateful for. Gratitude is a wonderful way to turn your mood around. I also keep myself busy with hobbies that I love.
It will take time to feel complete again, but I won’t buy another pet until I can love myself first.
2011 Gargoyle Anthology Award Winner: Silver Award for Personal Essay