The train is quiet, all faint humming and oscillating movement, our bodies squeezed in between those of strangers, lost in the yellows and soft greys of the carriage, rocking on the balls of our feet, trying not to fall. Her eyes are trained on mine, kind and curious.
I’m fucked up, I tell her.
We are so new to each other still – acquaintances, and hardly even that, really. Our names still taste foreign on each other’s tongues. But talking is easy, and there is so much laughter, and when I open my mouth here it is – the first of a series of shared confessions that will knit our friendship stronger.
I’m fucked up.
I keep the memory of this moment sharp in my mind: how my voice is nearly steady, carefully weighing the words – such a delicate balance, dancing between what could easily be perceived as unnecessary dramatics but feels like raw truth.
I’m fucked up, I tell her, and what I mean to say is I am growing. I am growing and it is a damned hard and messy thing, but hell if it isn’t one of the most valuable things I have ever done. I have unravelled myself and pieced myself back together so I could be better – to myself and to others – and I have so much still to break apart and to build back up again.
I fail spectacularly at that goal, more often than not. Some days I am all snot and blood and words like teeth, and I need you to know that. I need you to know that, if we’re going to do this – if we decide to stand together, and to become together – there will be days where we will end up splattered in mud, from wrist to brow.
I’m fucked up, I tell her. She smiles.
So is everybody else.
There is a shuffling of feet as people step off the train; the shift of our bodies making room, the blaring noise of the doors closing again, and her words hang in the air, and suddenly it is so much easier to breathe.
You are not the only fuck up in the room.
I am all loose seams and fading bruises and full, open-mouthed smiles, chipped edges and scraped knees and moving hands. For so long I thought I had to apologize for that.
And standing there next to her in a city neither of us know yet, I realize that with every single one of my I am fucked ups I am apologizing.
I am sorry for being imperfect. I am sorry for being unfinished – for not being full-fledged, for not being rounded, for losing my balance more often than finding it. I am sorry for lagging behind when it feels like the world is always three steps ahead.
And she is saying, don’t be.
Don’t be, every single one of us is a work in progress. Every single one of us is sat deep in our own trenches and making it up as we go. Every last one of us is trying to become.
Grace, is what she’s saying. We all have our own ghosts to untangle and make bed with.
We’re all trying.
We get off the train and the sky is grey, a heaviness I am not yet used to. I am distracted now, the words set on repeat in a quiet corner of my mind, and it settles warm in my chest – the sudden knowledge that we are all fucking up in our own way, and that we’re alright; that we’re doing good, no matter how far from the finish line we feel.
(There is no finish line.)
We hug when we part, and I do not know yet. I do not know about the friendship we’ll make – how we’ll knit it around common affinities for yoga and laughter. How we’ll unburden some of our unspoken sadnesses to one another, and sit together through the mess. I do not know that there will be good food, and drunken moments, and cheering each other loudly, through the disastrous days and the dream-come-true milestones, as we become, and become again.
She smiles and something about it says I see you. I now you’re trying and I know it’s hard sometimes. I know you’ll fuck up, the same way I know I will. But if you’re willing – if you’ll let me – I’ll be right there in the mud with you, and we can figure it out together.
I smile it right back at her.