“Do you ever feel like… Like there’s just this gaping hole inside of you?”
He cocked an eyebrow at her, curious, but unsurprised. This was how most of their nighttime conversations started. Silent contemplation as they sat on the dock, staring into the water, until one of them came up with some question that was interesting enough to vocalize.
Usually, her. “I mean… Like this black chasm in your soul, deep and bottomless, and it just makes you feel so empty,” she elaborated, her gaze fixated on the lake’s surface. “And, for me, when I play, it just does something to make me forget about it. The notes bounce around in my head, and it’s like they fill the void, reverberating in that hole and making it feel like it’s full. And for you… Maybe it goes away when you draw, or paint, or whatever it is you do.”
She waved a hand at him flippantly. He smirked. A painter, he was a painter. She knew it, and he knew that she knew it, but her sense of humor was of the variety that regularly put other people down.
Usually, him. “And maybe for poets and writers, they fill it with their words and shit,” she went on, making him laugh out loud. “But do you know what I mean? That emptiness?” She glanced up at him, her expression uncharacteristically serious.
“Yeah,” he said, the smile sliding from his face. “I know exactly what you mean.”
She nodded and looked back to the lake. “But then the song ends, you put your brush down, the story’s over… And the hole is still there, bigger and darker than ever.”
He didn’t say anything, because he could tell that she wasn’t done. She laughed breathily. “I just… I don’t know. Do you think everyone feels like this?”
“Maybe. I’ve never thought about it… Probably.”
“But then how does everyone else deal with it, then? People who don’t draw or play music or make, how do they live with it?” She grabbed his shoulder, eyes lit up in wonder. “Is that how alcoholics are born?” she whispered, her voice thick with sarcasm.
“Hmmm… No, that can’t be it, for I am an alcoholic as well,” he answered matter-of-factly. “But now that you’ve said that, I retract my previous assumption. I don’t think most people live with a metaphorical gaping hole inside of them that they feel the need to fill.”
“No,” he repeated. “Just people like us. And that’s why we have this need to make things that serve no other purpose than to be, or to mean something. To make that hollowness go away, even if we know it’s futile, going in. Even if it never completely vanishes.”
She pursed her lips, processing that. “So…that’s what makes an artist, then. A horrible hole in your soul that makes you miserable, most of the time…unless you’re in the act.”
“I think so,” he said.
They were quiet for a long time after that. Silent contemplation as they sat on the dock, staring into the water.
“Well shit,” she eventually said, the first to voice her concerns again. He cocked an eyebrow at her, curious, but unsurprised.
“So we’re just a bunch of goddamn slaves, then. Slaves to the art and the process and the fucking gaping hole.”
“..Yeah,” he admitted, hating how true it rang, even to himself. “Yeah. That pretty much sums it up.”
Neither of them said anything else.