what we could have in common

They enter through opposing doors, a cleaner and a young aristocrat. He keeps his head down, intent on polishing the hospital floor as her heels clack over to the central cot. The woman lying in that bed is old and frail, her skin an unnatural blue. Attached to a hundred machines, she is kept alive well past her time. The cleaner dares to raise his gaze to the lady by the bedside. She won’t look at him, but still he watches; her bright clothes and haughty gaze conflict with the dark hospital room. She is rich and self-centred; she shouldn’t be here. Yet she is caring, like him, and reaches for the old woman’s hand. As her grandmother’s breathing becomes ever more ragged, the girl lowers her eyeline to his. Worlds collide as flashes of forbidden feelings awake. His eyes blaze with anger, an emotion he never lets his kindly features show. He is supposed to be selfless. His people wait hand and foot on the selfish, giving up their own safety and comfort without a asecond thought. History dictates that society was to be split into those who valued their own safety above all else and those who did everything they could do to help. He knows of the devastation that hit the planet: sickness, war, economic collapse. He knows he should not regret the way his people pieced the world back together but he rages at the oppression he has undergone because of it. He knows he will die before his time, suffering in silence with no aid. A lifetime of being taught to sacrifice will amount to nothing. He shows her this through the flame in his eyes. The flame in his eyes is met with a fire in hers. She feels grief. Years of enforced self-preservation crumble as she mourns for someone other than herself. Her people prevailed because of their unpitying exploitation, but at the back of her mind there has always been guilt. Even in childhood, she wondered at whose expense her affluence came. Her people live like lonely parasites, taking from others for their indivual gain.She is supposed to follow this lifestyle disregarding others without a second thought. But now she mourns for the person she adored most. They both stand at the bedside, united in youth and anguish, as the old woman breathes her last. They wait for a second, taking in the possibility of change. Those in power had separated humanity, crushing any chance of community; how could it be so easy to find something in common with a stranger? Breaking the fragile silence, she clears her throat and drops the dead woman’s hand. They both turn to leave, one boy and one girl questioning the shift in their clouded thoughts. Maybe for the first time in a hundred years it has become possible to be both selfish and selfless, to be whole. They leave through opposing doors.


by Tessa, Year 10

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