100% Acoustic Hearts: A Short Story / Chapter 3: The Blank Space

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Chapter 3: The Blank Space

16 February 2015

Some say it is the space of everything and nothing all at once, while Taylor Swift wrote a song about it marking the beginning of a new destructive relationship (as is tradition). But as much as ideals are monkeys juggling three bright coloured balls in people's heads, it isn't exactly so because it makes no sense.

The Blank Space is a clean slate where everything can exist, but nothing ever stays. Perhaps those that say it is everything and nothing are true. Perhaps Taylor Swift lives in a rich tiny mansion funded by her ex-lovers, maybe she bought it on her own, I don't know. We will never know.

But this part of the Blank Space is true: it is what you make it out to be.

Once, a long time ago, the President of the United States (Nixon) entered the Blank Space with the king of rock and roll (Elvis Presley, in case you ever needed a cheat sheet) and they talked for awhile (I think?). Roll on decades later and billions more have entered, dressed in courteous white with emotions blooming in sunset orange, fury in the darkest of grey and scars wider than the ravines found in Minecraft — the causes and effects are all but never-ending.

Today, new people enter the Blank Space.

Just past the first second of the day entered a young woman, sharing her first name with Taylor Swift, but looks anything like a Taylor Swift. Her eyes are red, her nose was blowing up a storm, and her feelings were wrapped up tighter than an Afghanistan kebab. The heat in her was finding a way out even if it meant speeding past the rage that was building from finding out who exactly had summoned her to the Blank Space. Who, in living hells on Earth and in the Blank Space, decided that summoning someone at the first second of the first minute of the first hour of a new day was a terribly good idea.

And Taylor Wollen finally knew who it was: Tim Bayfield.

She could hear it; the grandiose sounds of trumpets blowing from a mile away, the crescendos of splashing drums and percussion, loud sounds of the wrong feelings and never understanding why the hell he had decided to bring her here when sleep was next on her list in her mental bulletin board, along with watching new episodes of The Good Place, and eating Pringles and getting patches of lemons for her black and dead eyes, a makeover, and, most importantly, absolutely no disturbance. There were consequences for breaking rules, and a woman's rules at that.

Tim was here for a reason that he had built up in his mind. He entered the Blank Space with newfound determination, a sprinkled joy in the words rolling about in his mouth and confidence that he could spell out with just his eyebrows. He was a weapon; steeled and sharpened, a fruit ripe for the occasion and a football manager on the touchline of a field watching his team prepare for the game of their lives.

When Tim had entered, so did the sounds of jazz and synthesizers that Giorgio Moroder would be proud of. It was a hurricane, an unstoppable hurricane destined to begin as it was destined to end, and Tim orchestrated it. The sirens were forcing their way into the Blank Space and they were here for a reason. Backup brigades to the boy with some purpose, to the boy with little reason, to the boy who knew a quarter of what he was doing and how he was going to do it, and to be the first to escape if the high sandcastle failed to make it past the first child that had had enough.

Unlikely was what Taylor found the entrance to be for the hero of our story, though she considered herself to be more of the girl being placed as far away as possible, as far away as anyone could be from being entangled in a Disney movie, laden with marketing traps and mascara lips.

The sirens soon stopped thereafter, and though Taylor couldn't quite see Tim's eyes nor the unique features tied to his face, she had expected nothing less than annoyance and a whole new level of sickness-induced rage.

"Hi," Tim said.

"Hi," Taylor said.

An awkward silence erupted in the Blank Space like a tide cascading over the both of them, crashing like waves to swimmers who had ventured too far into the forsaken islands. Loud and overbearing and eternal until someone spoke a word.

"So," she said, being that someone. "Is there anything else you wanted to say other than 'hi'?"

A bubble popped up beside Tim, invisible to our heroine. Inscribed in clear and bold letters were instructions for our young hero: 'I JUST CALLED TO SAY HI'.

The bubble popped in an instant and a new one re-emerged in its place: 'UH, YES, I MEAN NO, NOT REALLY.'

"Uh," Tim said, reading off of the bubble one word at a time. They say that in the Blank Space the longer you take to say your bubbles the faster they pop. And POP goes Tim's. "I mean, I think so. No, I mean, I just called to say hi," he said, remembering as much as he could.

Taylor summoned a stack of tissues to her aid in the Blank Space, plugging at her nose while she prepared her reply.

"Tim," she said, like a lover that had been war-torn from too much bullshit and too much bull's shit. "Did you really have nothing better to do?"

A new bubble emerged, and an inscription flared up, decidedly being the one thing that Tim needed to say before he could leave the Blank Space with his pride intact. If he ever did have one.

"I just called to say happy birthday, too," he said. There was a slight pause. A cascade. "So… happy birthday!"

The sharpness of Tim's enthusiasm shot Taylor's tissues away, causing her to summon new ones in place. A bubble invisible to Tim popped up beside her: 'ARE YOU F$@#ING KIDDING ME WITH THIS BOY?!'

"Tim," she said, bursting the bubble on her own. A cascade again. This time the Blank Space stopped, and so did our hero.

It's not usual for heroines to pause and think about what to say since our hero pales in comparison utterly when it comes to words and smack talk. But Tim was willing to let it slide, even if it meant that his bubbles were destroying and recreating at a breakneck pace.

Several bubbles included: 'HOT DAMN', 'OKAY I THINK I'M STILL IN IT' and 'OH MY FOOT IS STUCK IN A REFRIGERATOR?!'

"Thanks," she said, finding genuine resolve, humility and happiness, especially in times of sickness and regret. Especially when she had been pulled through the ringer in a romantic dance-off where her partner had gone astray, her challenger absent and her back aching from being unable to overturn her way out of the big-ass couch. "You were the first person to say that to me today."

Tim smiled. "That was what I was gonna' say."

Bubble for him: 'NO SHIT'. Cascade again.

"So, is that all? Happy birthday? At midnight?" She asked, blowing on her nose, getting some of that reverberations blasting towards Tim.

There was a moment when our hero finally looked to be less confused than the wandering John Travolta gif. It was like the moment in Empire Strikes Back, where the scene goes: spoilers spoilers spoilers.

"Well, are you sick, Taylor?" he asked.

A dozen hand clap emojis lined up behind Tim, in timely and orderly fashion, doing what they do best in unison: clapping. They clapped so hard and so loudly that he had forgotten about the cascade brushing him by, and then he swiped them off the Blank Space when their job was done.

"Yes," she said, the tissues pushing in and out of her nose like a needle in a sewing machine. Jesus Christ, this boy couldn't take a hint, could he?

Tim's bubble popped again, and this time he considered well before deciding to do what was right. All the missed shots came rolling back, all the what he-should-have-dones were obliterated into a million debri, sucked into a corner in the Blank Space, a vortex of infinite possibilities ending with only one outcome.

"Well," he said. "I'm going to leave you to rest then. After all, I've said what I've wanted to say."

That was all spoken without a passing look at his reformed bubble. A special trust had been put in place. The inscription was just a way to let him know the truth, and the truth was to just let it be.

Tim proceeds to withdraw from the Blank Space, but Taylor's bubble explodes, anticipatedly. It was deafening. A new bubble floated beside her. However, as light-headed as she was with a new barrage of familiar emotions hitting her, she thought that it was time to let some of that hurt go. Being a prisoner to an unforgiving captor was always the worst. Taylor knew more than the both of them inside the Blank Space, as Richard Marx sang it best on the song Should've Known Better.

"Tim," she said, turning her blues into a pop rock concert, the guitar riff piercing through the void. "You wanna meet tomorrow?"

For a moment there was a swirl, a ship heading into the perfect marshmallow rather than an iceberg, and Tim was the captain of his own demise. Somebody's Baby by Jackson Browne begins to play on a newly-formed record vinyl player - ironically - with a rise and a symphony flourishing up to meet it. Then it splashes away with a flurry of rainbow-coloured smoke.

'STEADY YOURSELF', the bubble demands to Tim. It bursts again.

"Do you mean today? Since tomorrow was a few minutes ago," he said, trying not to sweat himself mentally and physically.

Taylor thought for a moment. She was still sick, though at least not yet a partner to the bed, which she had no intention of being in a romantic relationship with anyway. She didn't have much of a choice, though.

"You're right," she said. "I can't make it today."

"The day after that? I'm just suggesting," he said.

She wasn't really convinced that the flu would be a long-gone story like log cakes during Christmas. Making promises to people like Tim, who may or may not still be a peculiar target to hold on to, was not her forte.

"You know what? I think I'll call you," she said. Her bubble bursts, and she awaits a new one along with a response from Tim.

"You think?" he asked.

"Of course. What-" she pauses to clench her unyielding running nose, releasing it a moment after, "-do you think? That I wouldn't call?" she said.

"No, no, that was not what I meant, like, at all. What I was trying to get at-"

"You know, Tim," she cuts across the conversation, causing his bubble to pop with the vinyl player. "You don't really know what you want, do you?"

A hi-five emoji appeared to scratch Tim's unruly hair. He really didn't know what he wanted, and she had hit the nail on its head, or the hair on his head. There were a lot of things that he thought of that would work, like surfing, hiking, spending time in front of a television screen and cheering for a football team that she would have no idea about. He could already envision it: This player is the best player on this team, he would say and a response of Tim, I honestly don't give a bubblecup about what you just said coming back to him.

"I think I have some idea," he said. "I want to go back to some places, like Gabriella's, or maybe not literally, but a place where they played the same kind of music at her's. Though, I'm not really sure if you remembered the song that played back then."

"I had absolutely no idea. You still remembered?"

"Yeah. Play That Funky Music, Wild Cherry. Good song. Real funky. It's in the name of the song, really gives it away."

Taylor's mind softened from a marshmallow explosion, which was largely different from the one that Tim's ship had crashed into. It was sweet, boiling up in her mouth, and she could almost taste it. She couldn't quite remove it in essence, but it felt good. A honeyed, everlasting warmth, and it felt very good.

"You remembered that? You remember everything," she said.

"Yeah," he said. He tries, and sometimes not everything comes back to him, but he knows this: he tries.

There was a cascade, but for once, the Blank Space seemed to be on both of their sides, like a passenger in a vehicle with a driver and another passenger who had enough of the cold shoulder, like seeing both teams competing for a multiple prizes when either had a solid chance to actually work together and go for all of it. The former more so than the latter. The Blank Space usually doesn't care much for either party, so this was an unfamiliar first. An unfamiliar first to both parties towards each other as well.

"So," Taylor said, blowing her nose into the tissue. "I'll call you, Tim." A new bubble emerged, but she hadn't even bothered to look at it. She already knew what she wanted to say. The bubble wasn't going to change her mind anytime soon.

"Sure," Tim said, nodding quietly, his lips widening. "I'll wait for it." As it was with Taylor, a new bubble snapped into place. He tried looking at it, but there was something else stopping him. It felt like a new feeling that he was unsure of. It was a distinct first, and one that he wanted to keep. One that he wanted to remember.

"Okay, then," she said.

"Okay," he said.

A cascade once more.

"Okay," she said. "Bye."

"Bye bye."

Taylor was the first to leave the Blank Space. Tim stood in there for a moment before following suit.

As with all Blank Space interactions, this conversation was kept forever, but neither party knows it. Maybe they do, maybe they don't. Maybe they secretly want it, maybe they secretly wished to play it back again and again and again.

While the actions weren't all physical and materializing, it was also the thankless job of the Blank Space. Like a sprinkle of fairy dust in a fairy tale to a young girl, it takes on a whole new meaning when the characters get involved. Especially when the characters are layered similar to wedding cakes but only on the first level, the big one.

The lasting shot of the Blank Space is nothing short of clouded imagination. As we dolly up into the mess of germs, broken vinyls, marshmallows, unspoken words and hidden meanings, the last bubble for both of them stands in the wake of nothingness, directly opposing each other. It was supposed to be the words that Tim should've said, that Taylor should've said, but it wasn't.

Instead of displaying the words of what they both wanted to say, the bubble had manifested itself into the conversation, playing into and with both parties. It wasn't a trick, sometimes the bubble has other ideas, and sometimes the bubble had enough. This time, the bubbles were together, accepting and embracing what they were trying to do. An unfamiliar first, as with all things.

With the blankness settled and the emptiness drowned, the bubbles stay lit like a lighthouse to a damaged ship and a ship with a new captain, with only the words demanding to be felt rather than said. Tim and Taylor understood it. They felt it.

'TAKE A GODDAMN CHANCE'. And that was enough.

THE END.


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