Exhausted from their days at work, they slumped into the couch. Not the same couch for they existed in parallel; they had not met and never would. And yet, distant as they were, they were united.
Both had grown up with little aspiration in life to their parents’ dismay. At school, they were known as ‘goofy’ which their mothers always interpreted as ‘creativity’ – although little had come of it. They had a penchant for trying things half-heartedly before giving up, landing them a succession of short-lived professions. Recently, they had moved out of their parents’ home to seek the big city life. Stuck on the outskirts of the city in their small apartment, they were now left with the drone of traffic. Their daily commute was long and exhausting. They had but one friend who was unreliable at best. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. The city of ‘great opportunities’ held none for them but after having invested so much time and money, they were too ashamed to return home. Resigned to their realities, they decided to sit by the shore and watch life ebb and flow.
Our two characters were kindred spirits that lived starkly different realities. Only familiar with each other’s lives as distant images, they knew not the same shade of sun, taste of water or length of days. One fought against boredom; complained about the banalities of office life; approached work with apathy and moaned about their persistent cold. The other fought against poverty; desperately hoping to find more work to survive and growing up with a body deformed by unnatural labour and a mind stultified by poverty. An innocent cold, for this tired, malfed and overworked soul, could mean death.
What united our two characters was not culture, language or reality, but a belief in a shared narrative. A narrative of many stories which, when put together, formed an elaborate history of how such contrasting lives should co-exist. This narrative had been carefully knitted together over many years but it remained littered with holes. In the dark and scary world they inhabited, our characters clung tightly to such a narrative for when the occasional gust of wind exposed these holes, questions arose from one to the other to be answered by the narrative:
Why is climate change attributed to me?
It is not my profligate use of the world’s resources for the past century which carries on today; it is the many babies you are having.
Why is there the impression that there is only violence in my life?
It is not my one-dimensional representation of you as starving children on posters; it is the brutal and primitive life you lead.
Why are my immigrants rushing to your borders?
It is not my Instagram full of falsehoods or dogma about what defines ‘the good life’; it is because of the horrors of life in your land.
Why do our races, in the same place, live so differently?
It is not because centuries of my systemic and institutionalised discrimination continues to impact life today, we have all signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; it is your inability to move on.
Why are my people called immigrants and yours, expats?
It is not my discrimination; it is your political correctness.
Why do I not have pride in my skin colour?
It is not the consistent denial of your beauty in the products and entertainment I peddle; it is your right to choose.
Why are my leaders so inept?
It is not my proxy wars which supported their rise to tyranny, my military that armed them, my foreign companies that bought the stolen public gems they sold, my banks that hide their money or my aid that now papers over these cracks; it is you who keeps voting for them.
Why is corruption rife in my country?
It is not because I hide my corruption better or I enable yours; it is because you are less principled.
Why do I languish in such poverty?
It is not my history of theft, my unequal terms of trade or my system which enables a handful of people to be worth more than half of the world; it is your unwillingness to work hard and toil.
Why does so much of my wealth go to you?
It is not your wealth; it is mine.
And then the wind settled and in this way our two characters brought their two realities in harmony with their values. Sitting on their couch, they prepared themselves for another day of hardship as they always did – falling asleep under the comfort of this narrative.