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The Room that Shouldn't be Empty
The doorknob turns beneath my hand too easily. I briefly recall when he had broken his doorknob almost seven years ago; a smile flits across my face as I recall the absurdity of the incident. As the door swings open on protesting hinges, my eyes see nothing but the darkness of the room. I can hear the soft swish of his ceiling fan.
I step through the doorway and into the yawning black mouth of darkness. Without searching for it in the dark, my hand presses against the dented light switch. Another memory flits through my mind; another smile flashes across my face as I remember how the light switch was damaged.
The room bursts to life as light shines from the ceiling fan that is monotonously spinning at a mediocre speed.
His room is just like it has always been. The shirts and shorts hanging out of the dresser to my left; absent-minded clutter littering the floor. The bookshelf, to my right, full of the things he loved to read. The electronic trinkets he had built, haphazardly sprawled on the top of the bookshelf. His sheets are still in tangle, and books litter his bed. A nightstand with a teetering tower of yet more books still holds his temperamental alarm clock.
But now, no one is here to fill the empty shirts. No one is here to pick up the clutter when Mama insisted that he clean his room, and no one is here to read the shelves full of books that he had carefully placed in order – the only organized thing in his room. No one is here to tinker with the soldering board in the corner, or read one of those thick, nonfiction books that he loved to clean information from. No one is here to tangle up the sheets again, or slam the alarm clock’s snooze button.
I brush some dust off of his dresser strewn with odds and ends. I touch each one of the items with my fingertips, sometimes picking them up. A sad smile crosses my face and soon melts away into a sorrowful frown with a trembling chin.
I drop the screwdriver that I was holding and cannot help hearing the clatter that resounds in my ears. No one to fill the silence in his room. No one but me. And I cannot be half of the person that he ever was; I can never fill his silence the way he did.
I turn away from the dresser and sit on his high bed. Sheets and pillows and an old quilt are knotted and tangled all about. I pick up the nearest pillow and pull it into my chest, resting my chin on it. Closing my eyes, I inhale and let his scent wash over me. I remember the last time I saw him.
“Goodbye,” was all I had said. He had mumbled a response, and the next morning before I awoke, he was gone. He had never been sentimental towards me, and I didn’t expect anything different this time. He was a boy, and I couldn’t expect much. But I could tell that he loved me as much as I loved him.
We had assumed that he had made it to the University. He was eighteen and a good driver, and though we knew that he would probably take some wrong turns, we never expected this. Never at all.
The last memory I have of him was watching him throw some last minute things into a duffel bag. I had watched his back. A red shirt; black athletic shorts. Barefoot in his room, quiet as usual, unaware that his little sister was watching him go.
I had turned from his doorway silently and then into mine. Our rooms were joined by a thin wall, and I could hear him late into the night packing.
My brother will never come home again. I’ll never see his face as I make some inside joke we’ve had for years. I’ll never smell his cologne, or stay up all night watching movies with him. I’ll never have him at my side, showing me how to hold a rifle.
I release the pillow and it tumbles from my grasp, past my lap, and thumps onto the floor. I try to forget the pillow fight we had when I was twelve and he was fifteen.
Something wet splashes onto my foot, and I realize it is a tear. Another falls from my face and leaves a damp, dark circle on his carpet. Something tight grips my chest as sorrow spills from my eyes. Empty tears, powerless tears.
No one else to catch them as they fall. No one but me, in a room that should be filled with a boy that should be alive.