It's almost four in the morning. The static light from the television makes the black walls glow an eerie blue; the only things on are infomercials, 'adult' television, and crappy re-runs. We're tired, but sleep is nowhere in sightinsomnia's cruel laughter rings in my ears.
We're both falling into the ten-year-old loveseat, soft with age, her head on one arm of the couch, mine on the other. My wide eyes are dry, as if there's no water left in me. Our shared blanket scratches the skin of my neck, and I can feel her feet against my calves, just as I know she feels my feet against her own. The volume on the TV isn't very high, but with our silent breaths, even the smallest voices seem loud. There's a man on the screen, hair trimmed to perfection, bright clothes immaculately ironed. He's talking and smiling all at the same time, trying to sell some kitchen product that we don't really need. But the ones selling it hope that this late-night advertisement will reach people who are tired and can't sleep at night; people whose minds are cluttered with fear, anxiety, and angersad people like us. He blinds us with his bleached smile; his excited voice deafens us with lies.
It's in this moment that I feel something inside me changeit's as if part of me is falling asleep, and something else wakes up in its place. Everything seems darker, and the shadows seem closer. The man's eyes are looking at me intently, and his smile becomes a smirk.
"Do you feel as broken as I do?"
I don't expect this question. I can feel my heart racing faster, and I feel ice shoot down my veins. It makes me uncomfortable; I decide to give her only silence, denial of a question ever being asked. But I hear my rusty jaw creak, and a quiet voice emerge.
"Sometimes I don't even feel human."
Why did I say that?
"It's like our brains don't even operate the same way. Everyone's actions seem illogical, and their masks are cruel. Their thoughts terrify me. I feel like I can't trust them, that they'll only make me regret it in the end. And in that case, I'd rather be alone."
But there's still a part of me that knows that thinking this is wrong, but no matter how hard I try to fight or try to change, I just can't. How can I trust anyone else when I can't even trust myself?
I'm speaking in a hurried whisper. Maybe the part of my brain that makes me speak thinks that if everything is said faster the truth will do less damage.
"And despite my unwillingness to let them see me," I can hear my voice turn into water, and I wonder where it's coming from, "I want to be like everyone else, a part of them, with a desperation that hurts."
Why do I keep puking out the truth? But it stops all of sudden, and I feel something slide across my cheek. An escaped tearI feel it roll off my face and soak between the threads of the couch, adding yet another memory to the vast collection it's amassed over the years.
The TV's light seems dimmer, and our dark cocoon seems heavier; my words have painted the walls darker still.
"Why don't you ever come to me for help?"
I want to laugh at her: No one should have to help me. Everyone has problems to deal with, and they don't need mine on top of that.
"Because even if I did, you'd realize that you don't want to deal with me, and you'd leave. And I can't become more alone that I already am. I just can't."
I feel my whole body shaking. I've never told anyone the whole truthit would scare them away for sureand it's hard to be speaking these feelings rather than simply feeling them.
"I wouldn't leave you. I'm your friend, and you've helped me more than I could ever thank you for. I just want to do the same for you. Nothing you say will scare me more than what I feel inside myself."
There's a happy fluttering in my stomach when she tells me that I make her feel better. It makes me feel like I'm good, when in my heart I know I'm not. I want to let her help me, but the sickness in my skull won't let her.
The blanket is pulled away from me, and the couch sinks in the middle. A weight is rested on my arm, and I realize it's her head. She's tucked herself behind my knees, like a cat creeping into its owner's bed at night. Her arm throws the blanket around us again, and then settles itself across my waist.
"You're a good person, no matter what you may think," she murmurs kindly. "You make lots of people feel better. And I know it's hard, but you have to believe that other people can be good too. The world doesn't have to be dark."
I want to feel in my heart that her words are true. She wants it as well. But we both know that the world will continue to be dark, even if someday it's only around the edges of our fragile hearts. But we've found comfort, and even if it's only for a few minutes, we're willing to pretend things will get better.
I smile, even though she probably can't see. "You know what? I find such a sad irony in how two such damaged people can make each other feel good."
I hear her chuckle. "Yeah, I agree. And you know what else? I fucking hate infomercials."
I laugh, wholeheartedly, and more honestly than I have in a long time, only because I completely agree. Our darkness is more real than any fake smile, fake feelings, or fake stagelights could ever be.