Meeko writhed about as if in pain. Like a despondent child, she twisted and turned until her arms and legs became tangled in the lone bedsheet covering the mattress. She was a sorry sight—much like the mattress—and together they evoked in me much sorrow.
“I understand why you want to fit in,” I said.
Rolling onto her side, she watched me in silence as a single tear dripped from her left eye. It followed the contours of her nose before moving across her cheek, whereupon it faded into the cream sheet pressed against her face. The sheet was in desperate need of a wash. It was my turn to do the washing, yet as usual, I was holding off as long as possible for no other reason than I couldn’t be bothered. Washing was a pointless endeavour, I believed, the same as cleaning in general, for things just got dirty again.
“Don’t judge me” she said. Her voice was soft, and although the anger in her wasn’t far from the surface, it had subsided due to the false promise of comfort offered by our lumpy mattress. It was a terrible mattress, pounded into submission by years of fucking. I’d meant to get a new one, but there was always something else to buy or some bill to pay.
“I’m not judging.”
Another tear came, and then just like the one before it, it made its escape from her body before being absorbed into the bedsheet.
“I don’t want to be on the outside any more than you do, but it’s the only place where we can go about seeing things differently.”
She sighed and kicked her legs but kept her eyes on mine.
“Do I want us to be poor for the rest of our lives? Do I want us to be living in some crumby bedsit while others our age are living in their own homes and holidaying across the world twice a year? No, I don’t. But tell me, Meeko, how you can you make a change when there’s nothing in your life that needs changing? How can you wish to leave a mark on the world when there’s no fire in your belly? These days are tough, I know, yet they will make us.”
“It sounds so easy when you put it like that” she replied, “but to live through these days, each day, each year—it’s not as easy as that. I don’t want to struggle until I’m old. I want to enjoy my life.”
Rolling a cigarette, I lit it with a match and sucked down a lungful of smoke.
“I’d never want you to spend your days unhappy, yet you’ve got something about you. A way of seeing life that, if nurtured, could grow into something beautiful.”
“But why does that mean I have to suffer?” she asked.
“Because melancholy is fertile ground for growth. Those who don’t suffer lose their need to speak, and if they do continue to speak, it’s without fire—without passion.”
“So we have to suffer forever?” she sighed.
“Not forever, Meeko, just until every word we speak is as sacred as the words we read. The pain of these days can help shape us into the heroes we need to be” I said, “and the heroes that others such as us are in need of, and yet above all, to be such a hero, one has to shed the skin they were born with.”
“And this is us shedding our skin?” she asked.
“Yes. Yes, it is” I replied. Handing her my cigarette while kneeling beside her, she took a slow drag as a breeze came through the window, taking away the odour of our unwashed bodies.