“Oh, I like you, too and to tell you the truth – that wasn’t my chair after all.”
I can remember standing on my daddy’s feet – he used to have these old, black Ropers he wore down until nothing was left. I couldn’t have been much older than five or six when The Chair came on; we swayed back and forth on the concrete floor, his hand holding mine firmly between his fingers and the other wrapped around my shoulder blades. Dad laid out the standard for slow dancing back then, maybe setting the bar a tad bit high, even when I was placed upon his feet. It’s ironic now how often I search for these qualities when a man takes me in his arms for a dance: I lean into someone who leads with dominance, I seek the natural starts and stops and twists of rhythm, and I wish for a voice in my ear singing the words.
Twenty years later, I still pause to listen when Dad sings Strait. Sometimes we’ll be in the truck and he won’t realize he’s doing it until he catches me watching him.
Tonight after I left work I gave into the overwhelming urge for some steaming, sweet coffee. It had been somewhat of a long day – not because it was busy or stressful. It wasn’t anymore mentally taxing than usual, in fact it was a pretty great day on those terms.
The problem beat on the left side of my chest.
I fight it, you know? The loneliness. I tell my family I’m fine, just like every single girl with a bit of independent fire does – I tell them I know it’ll “happen when it’s meant to.” I tell myself that a lot, too. And, God’s honest truth, 9 times out of 10 I truly am happy alone. It’s weirdly reassuring, to like yourself enough and be comfortable with just your own presence. I sit at restaurant tables, munching on cheesy fries with an empty chair across from me. I go and watch movies I’m excited about with an empty theatre seat beside me. I take roadtrips with the radio blasting Shinedown, the passenger side empty other than the night sky. I read my favorite books on an empty couch.
And I like my life.
I know people who have spent the entirety of their youth who don’t, in fact, like their life. I’m not judging their choices. God, no. I do feel like I’ve got a leg up in a very circular way – to already have come to terms with the fact I would choose my solitude over white noise. It’s not something I’ve mastered by any means. I don’t think a person ever really does; it’s a never ending search – to learn to embrace everything you are without having someone across you as a sounding board to confirm/deny it. That doesn’t mean I don’t get lonely either.
Here’s what all those empty seats, empty chairs, empty evenings have shown me:
I don’t want someone to merely sit in that spot. I want them to fill it.
I crave sitting across from someone who challenges me. I desire a chair full of laughter and intelligence. I want the space between myself and what used to be an empty spot (now filled) to have a spark.
Sitting here, hands wrapped around the warm coffee mug and watching the windows fog with heat meeting ice, I don’t look at the empty chair across from me and feel alone the way I used to a few years ago. I look at that empty chair and I feel…excited. Thrilled, even. To know I’m content right where I’m at, yet have the bravery to hope someone else is out there feeling the same way about themselves. I want that; I want someone who is complete all on his own and grows even more fulfilled by my presence and love.
I listened to The Chair on my way home and, as I walked in the back door, a certain line stuck with me in the first chorus:
“Well, excuse me, but I think you’ve got my chair.
No, that one’s not taken,
I don’t mind
if you sit here,
I’ll be glad to share…”