Alex smiles indulgently at your teddy bears. You laugh, smile brightly, pretend you haven't just been hit by the incongruity of it all – supposedly mature enough to move out, but still needing a teddy to cuddle when things get bad, because the childish comfort of synthetic fur against your skin is something you never considered leaving behind when you were packing. Alex picks one up, presses him against your face so your noses are touching. "Look, he likes you," she smiles. She sets the bear aside and kisses you, and everything is all right again. This is your home now.
There is no more room for your stuff, for your clothes and shoes and anything else. You've never been able to travel light, but this is your home now, not a vacation, not a short trip that you'll be returning from. This is it. Alex seems genuinely apologetic about the lack of space but you're not sure she really gets it. It's not that you're so materialistic and superficial you'll die if your shoes have to be squashed in together, but if there's no room for your things in Alex's apartment, maybe there's no room for you in her life.
Washing dishes can't be that hard, you think, just dull and tiresome and tedious. And it is all those things, but more – it is frustrating, scrubbing at some junk on a plate that seems like it's never going to come off, and exhausting, when arms that can handle tennis matches and party preparations and night-long fucking become weary from rubbing and cleaning and drying, and dangerous, when a glass slips from your soapy fingers and there is blood on your hands from the shards before you realise. This is home, you think, and you don't know where the Band-Aids are.
You have never done laundry before. You have never needed to do your own laundry before, but you figured you could handle it. Asking for Alex's help would make you look like even more of a naïve child, so you believe in yourself. It's only a matter of pressing buttons, after all, and you even remember to add fabric softener. You feel accomplished as you watch the clothes spin around, as though you are finally learning the rules of this new life. You are competent. And then you stare helplessly at the blur of spreading pink, and your heart sinks.
The rent is late and Alex frowns whenever she remembers. You kiss her to try and make her smile again, try to cheer her up, but the frown keeps reappearing and you realise that kisses, the only currency you can afford to deal in at the moment, are not going to work. You figure it will be okay in the end, and it is, but she doesn't appreciate your optimism. There's still next month to think about, and it feels suddenly like you're running on a treadmill. You start to wonder would it really be so bad to go – home.
- end -