Me and Em

A short story

"What is life?" I asked out of nowhere, one day. That was the first question I had ever asked Em; I was seven years old. It was one of those deep questions you asked when you were little, not because you wanted the truth, but because you thought it was a regular question and you wanted a regular answer. I was lying on my back, in the middle of my living room, legs sprawled across our maroon-brown rug in snow-angel formation.

It didn't answer immediately. Seven-year-old me waited, patiently expecting an answer. "Life is interesting," Em said, after many moments of quiet.

And it didn't say anything else after that.

So I kept with the philosophy that life was 'interesting', because there was nobody to contradict what It had said. A couple years passed, and I was the good age of twelve now. Twelve is an interesting age because your brain isn't quite grasping the universe's concepts, but it's almost there. So close that sometimes you convince yourself that you do understand and you do know why there are shattered plates on the ground in the kitchen. And you do know why your mother is sweeping the floor with tears in her eyes.

"How come I'm not good at anything? Everybody else is good at something, but I don't have anything I'm really good at," I asked that night, confused. Dad did say that God gave everybody a talent, but I was growing desperate and restless from not finding mine.

"Maybe you'd be good at things if you weren't so lazy and worked harder," Em answered, and I wasn't too surprised. I had been expecting something similar, anyways.

"That's not nice of you," I said instead, because I wanted to have an opinion.

"It's the truth. Telling the truth is nice," Em said, which shut me up. Maybe Em was correct after all, since it was right about the truth-telling part.

I didn't ask Em any more questions for a long time because I didn't want to get the wrong idea. There were a lot more shattered plates and bad grades and breathless crying nights after that, though. I'm not sure what changed, but all I'm sure of is that I did something wrong. Not sure what.

I was fourteen the next time I tried. "Why is love so twisted?" I asked. At this point in time, my mind was able to wrap its finger (expressively, not literally) around more of the universe's concepts, thankfully. I had read more books and gone to more schools and learned more strange things, so that may be where the question grew out of.

"Love is unfair and cruel and twisted," Em replied, quietly.

"That's what I just said," I snapped, hoping for a better answer.

"Love is like that because that's the way it was created. It was created to bring joy, but everything that brings joy always bring forlorn," Em explained. I tensed; I was curled up on my bed, trying to disappear among the blankets. "Everything in life balances out. That's how the world was made," Em continued, to prove its point.

"Why can't I have love, then?" I whispered; a stupid question. Part of me hoped that Em would not hear, but it heard everything.

"L-o-n-e-l-y," Em said, its voice echoing, and I felt more ashamed than I had before. Of course, it had been selfish of me to ask that question. I asked a stupid question, I got a (almost) stupid answer.

After those three questions, Em almost never left me alone, ironically. We were kind of like friends, except Em was better at insulting me rather than helping me. I continued to go to schools, and it was not very amusing nor was it fun. Breathless crying nights became breathless crying walks, usually to the edge of the bridge, staring helplessly down at the water, wondering what would happen if my soul disappeared in the beautiful murks and never came back up. Shattered plates became shattered rings and I had never felt more lost in my life, but I still had Em. Bad grades became bad people, with strange minds and even stranger ways of having what they called 'fun'.

Its funny; I usually asked Em questions when I'm at home, sitting on my maroon-brown rug or sitting on my bed, buried in the blankets. This time, I was sitting against a brick wall, rain pouring down the sides of my face, something round in my hand, and my mouth full of the strange taste. I was eighteen.

"Why am I like this?" I said, hoarsely, because my throat was closing up on me. Em hesitated; it was the first time it had ever did that. I was too dizzy to be shocked. The silence went on for too long.

"Are you tired, girl?" Em asked and my breathing hitched. Em never answered my questions with its own question, and I did not know how to answer, so I let my soul work instead of my mind.

"Yes." My reply did not feel like my own.

"Tired of what?" Em's voice was harsh. So many things appeared in my brain so quickly that I almost started crying again. Words and memories I did not know existed were drawn up, right to the front of my conscience, and I wanted to vomit everything out. But I did not, in fear of severe consequences. All the terrible, horrible, disgusting things that I did not want to do but I did anyway popped up like popcorn, right then and there. I had chosen to follow Em all the way out here, in the rain, with the strange taste in my mouth and a round thing in my hand.

I did not reply another time, but Em began talking again; somehow, it had heard everything. "Tired of all those things, yet you are still sitting here looking like mess, feeling pathetic. You are pathetic. You think because your parents divorced, your friends left you, and you can't get good grades, that you deserve special treatment? You should grow up." I was stung, immediately, by the truth of those words. Why was I here in the first place? Whatever happened to the dreams of graduating high school with an awesome diploma and joining my favourite college and finding someone I love and living my life the way I was supposed to? I stood up, letting the rainwater drip down to my ankles.

"Em, you do need to grow up. We both need to grow up. We both have to focus on ourselves and find our balance. We have to show each other that what we want is possible," I said, my voice slowly rising until it came to a shout. The city street and shops danced like golden globes in front of my eyes. People must've thought I was crazy, shouting at something they couldn't see. I said the words like I meant them, forcing myself to believe them. It sent a peculiar feeling all throughout my body. "After all, that's what you said."

Em was quiet for a long time again, as if it were just as taken aback as I had been. I was afraid it had disappeared, never to be seen again, until I heard its soft voice ringing in my head once more. "Life is interesting." The words felt distant, almost another echo. If Em could smile, I think it would smile just about now, and so I smile.

I never heard from Em after that. It was almost as if it had been with me, but not with me, the entire way through. Sometimes I wished it came back, but I know it never will. After that encounter, something changed in my life. I wasn't sure how, but there was an interesting positive increase in my days after that day. There has got to be something that I wasn't understanding, something that was holding me back from all of this.

What was that something, I wonder?