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Kenopsia

The Eeriness of Places Left Behind

You can sense it when you move out of a house—noticing just how empty a place can feel. Walking through a school hallway in the evening, an unlit office on a weekend, or fairgrounds out of season. They’re usually bustling with life but now lie abandoned and quiet.

It’s easy to forget that most of your memories happened in places that are still around, the walls mostly unchanged, carrying on in your absence. But the world you once knew, and the people you still remember, have long since moved on, replaced by so many others who have passed through these doors.

It’s almost impossible to imagine while you’re still in it, knowing abstractly that the crowds will soon be gone, the lights shut off, the music silenced. If you spend enough time in a place, it becomes infused with a certain meaning, with specific memories soaked deep into every corner of the room. It’s hard to imagine that it could ever mean anything else.

But soon enough, there will come a day when you’ll pack up your things and walk through your house one last time. Looking slowly around the rooms, thinking back on everything that happened here. Which makes it feel not just empty but hyper-empty, with a total population in the negative, whose inhabitants are so conspicuously absent they glow like neon signs.

And not a day after you leave, it’ll become someone else’s new home. A blank canvas they’ll fill up with their own memories, burying the life you built in a fresh coat of paint, leaving nothing but echoes of what was once here.

Maybe that’s why we want to believe in ghosts. Maybe it’s just a fantasy. A fantasy that our memories are so powerful that they’ll leave a mark on the wall that would mean something to someone else and can’t just be painted over. We just want to mark our time here, to keep the rooms filled and the memories alive.

If our houses ever feel haunted, it’ll be because we’re haunting them ourselves, trying to revisit all the places we once knew. As if there were something still there for us, something we forgot. As if there were ever such a thing as “unfinished business.”

Ancient Greek κενό (kenó), emptiness + -οψία (-opsía), seeing. Pronounced “ken-op-see-uh.”

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