The Symbolism and Melodramatic Conundrum of the Empty Seat

My early Friday morning Virgin America flight to Seattle took off on time from Los Angeles International.  I was bound for a long weekend and much-needed getaway to the Pacific Northwest, specifically to attend a close friend’s wedding the following evening.  The entire trip had been booked a couple months prior, shortly after celebrating my one-year wedding anniversary.  My husband and I were seemingly stoked to be exploring the Emerald City together and of course, witness a wonderful friend, who had graciously accepted an invitation to our wedding, pledge her vows to the man she loves.

As the plane rose higher and higher into the clouds and the Pacific marine layer, I silently cursed the fact that I had been vexed with the notorious middle seat after my now ex’s flight had been understandably cancelled.  My weary head would nod off, longing for the stranger’s lap next to mine and the lack of solid landing would rudely awaken me from my partial slumber.  At least I could be thankful that the drool didn’t ensue.  I peeked to my right, to the lucky individual with the window seat, and I envied his neck pillow.

My late night, return flight home to Los Angeles came with slightly more luck.  I had been awarded the window seat this time!  Hooray!  This particular night, though, as the plane climbed into the chilly, Northwestern skies, something else was aloof.  I had a place to rest my head, albeit, a plastic and hard place but it beat a stranger’s shoulder any day.  My Ipod was charged and ready to lull me into a snooze with the latest John Legend album.  There was an infant seated in his mother’s arms in my aisle, however, he was perfectly serene.  Was it the temperature of the cabin?  No, I was seemingly comfortable in that sense.  And then, I peered to my left.  I realized that the seat next to me, the middle seat, was unoccupied.  In that moment, I felt a sharp pang of sadness in the pit of my stomach and I knew the tears wanted to escape their ducts as John Legend crooned, “Give your all to me and I’ll give my all to you…”

That empty seat stood for so much more than its face value.  To every one else on that flight, it was simply an empty seat, one of which would most likely be deemed unwanted for it was the middle seat and he/she would have been right next to a potentially fussy baby.  To me, it was his seat.  It was the part of that trip that had been cancelled due to a change in marital status.  That seat symbolized a separation, another loss in my life.  I realized that, on the departing flight, I was too busy being pissed off about the fact that I was in the middle seat to even notice that his seat was occupied.  I sure noticed that empty seat on the return flight.  It was shouting loudly, tauntingly, “Look at me!  You’re alone!  Again.  You are the pathetic product of a failed marriage!”

The case of the empty seat occurred a couple of weeks later at an R&B concert.  I decided to purchase a ticket for myself, as sort of a gift celebrating my independence and love for all things music.  Long story short, if you’ve ever listened to R&B, you understand that a lot of the music is “baby-making” music, so of course, a large scale concert held at Los Angeles’ Nokia theater is going to be chocked full of beautiful couples dressed to the nines, holding hands and locking lips.  *In effort to validate this opinion, in case you’re not familiar with the art of rhythm and blues, I had lost my virginity to the headliner’s love ballad, twelve years prior.  I knew what I was getting myself into and I was excited, nonetheless, because I was there for the pleasure of witnessing one of my favorite artists grace the stage.  What I didn’t anticipate, however, was for the seat next to mine to be – you guessed it – empty.

Now, I know this seems a little melodramatic, and perhaps it is, but I find it important to recognize these emotions, to listen to that little voice inside, telling oneself that he/she has failed.  The sooner we can go through these moments in our lives, the sooner we can move forward, with our head held high, telling that little voice to “Fuck off!”  If I feel like crying, I cry.  If I feel like screaming, I scream.  If I feel like cursing, I fucking curse.  The point is that there’s always going to be an “empty seat” at various points in our lives.  It’s what we do with the empty seat that makes the difference.  Me?  I’ve embraced it.  I welcome it.  Hell, I sit in it!  I understand that it doesn’t mean I’m alone, no matter how hard it tries to make me feel like the giant, white elephant in the room, er, on the plane.  I now view that empty seat as a chance at personal growth, at opportunity and most importantly, a thrilling mystery!

*Read more on the hilariously shameless day I lost my virginity in “Lightning, Hooters and a Mixtape” as well as other “Deflowered Memoirs” at

http://defloweredmemoirs.com/

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