Content Warning: this essay contains mentions of grooming
It’s 7.43 pm and you’re in the doorway getting you black sneakers on. I remember how you told me you call all types of shoes papuci. Meanwhile, I have too many different ways of saying shoes depending on the style. Some are adidași, some are teneși, some are balerini, some are ghete, only some are papuci. I hug you before you turn to linger a bit in the doorway. Or maybe I am imagining it. Maybe I am imagining that people who come over want to linger in my doorway when they leave, they want to hold onto the feeling of me a little bit longer, they want to whisper a small “Can I stay over? Can you ask me the meaning of another list of words in French? Can we re-watch this stream?”
It’s 6.47 pm and you’re on the couch, furiously typing the summary to a horrible compulsory reading we have for school. I made two cups of strawberry tea and I am swearing in the kitchen because I left the tea bags in the water for too long and now they are horribly bitter. I am thinking of how I must give up tea bags – I read in the news they contain microplastics. One day we’ll become full of microplastics and take years to decompose so we’ll get to spend more time together. You’ve told me earlier how you hate that we’ll all leave for Italy and act as if this friendship did not exist. But friendships survive and people stay in your life forever sometimes.
It’s 5.34 pm and I am trying to chop up a pumpkin that is bigger than my height so I have to rise on my toes and push the knife. You’re in the living room scream-asking how to make a CV. I roll my eyes because I just left your side five minutes ago and you’re already calling after me. You come into the kitchen and watch me struggle. You offer to help me, I say no, you help me anyway.
It's 4.29 pm and I have just watched you speak at the protest about your grooming experience. You cried and I held your hand and I cried too. Then we went home and I talked about the guy that I love because he reminds me of my dad and we ended up crying again. I wanted to take all the pain away from you and you told me you have always wanted to raise all your friends again so they got all the love they deserved. Then we cried some more and we went to sleep and for once I felt less lonely.
Inclusion is in memorizing the ways you say shoes, and offering help, and wanting to be together and stopping you from hurting. It's in the crying on public transport, in the "gosh, it’s so lonely to be a young adult", it's in the experiences we share together unknowingly. Inclusion is a house – we give it life. Inclusion is Mary Poppins – we take what we need from its purse. Inclusion is Nanny McPhee – it leaves when we're ready to be the bearers of inclusion ourselves, when we're full enough to become the beacons for others. Inclusion is like bread – it has to be made and made and made and eaten with vegan butter that we paid for together until the grease runs down the corner of our mouths. And, against all odds, against those who are trying to wash it down, against those that tell us we must suffer into groups where we don't fit in, against those who will tell us we will never prevail, inclusion shows us we will always find somewhere we truly belong.