I should be well into this evening’s guided meditation session, but the VR headset is still resting on my lap because I’m still marveling at you, over there in the warm glow of the salt lamp, stretched out on the sofa with the latest poetry—like you’re reclining on a tropical beach gazing upon the rhythmic surf that laps a tranquil seascape. And here I am, across the lifestyle gulf between us, in the armchair on the other side of the living room, wishing I had your ability to get by with basic things.

You’re so low-maintenance—all but psychologically self-sufficient—poetry your greatest monthly expense. You have no need, no use for any of the goods and services that I pay handsomely for, for the sake of mood regulation. Sumptuous poké bowls laden with nuanced umami and palate-exhilarating artisanal ginger molasses cookies, the weekly ego-stroking appointments and cartridges for the portable self-esteem expander, bottles of all-natural extra-strength mental cleanser and my subscription to the confirmation-bias book club—at the “Patron of the Arts” tier that includes early access to new releases and exclusive bonus chapters.

None of that appeals to you. Instead, you simply buy blueberries and poems then enjoy them while sipping English Breakfast brewed from a teabag—not even looseleaf jasmine (or at least genmai) steeped in a teapot. How unfair that the upkeep of my psyche is so much more costly.

“How do you do it?” I wonder, accidentally aloud.

You lift your calm, clear eyes from whatever poem you’re in the middle of and look at me with softly focused attention.

“Do what?” you ask—tone oblivious, giving the impression that it’s nothing at all.

Maybe it is. Poetry is after all nearly nothing. So often a little bundle of sensory impressions shaded by emotions, together with fragments of thought that have suggestive precision.

“You know,” I say—because I’m sure you do—but nonetheless, I clarify, “Make do with so little.”

“Oh, that. Just because something is a necessity doesn’t mean you can’t luxuriate in it.”

“Wow,” I murmur. “I wish a teacher had made it a point to share that perspective.”

“Actually, Ms. Winterstone did.”

“Really?” I blurt, taken aback. “She said that?”

How had I missed those words of wisdom? I was such a good student back then. Quite possibly the best I’d ever been.

“Yeah, she definitely did,” you say with utmost confidence in your memories. “You were probably home sick that day.”

“And you didn’t tell me about this…lesson?”

“It didn’t seem important at the time. I mean, the explanation she gave was emphatic but still casual. Like this perspective was common knowledge to adults—something we’d hear over and over throughout our lives.”

“Well, I’ve never heard anyone say anything remotely resembling this,” I say, indignant—like a well-deserved gesture of affection was withheld from me.

“Oh. Sorry, I should have told you,” you reply, the energy in your voice diminished. “I wish I had now.”

“No, no. Don’t worry about it. I mean, we were kids. It was our nature to mis-appraise things. To totally undervalue what really matters and overvalue things that ultimately don’t.”

“Isn’t that just human nature?”

“Sure, but I’d like to think that with time we get better at gauging importance. It seems like you have.”

“The poetry helps.”

You’re right. It does. Though never enough. Maybe that’s the point. Poetry pointing us in a certain direction, trusting us to discern the path. An artful incompleteness. Honing the necessity of wanting. Like this conversation has.

“Why don’t you try this poem after your VR meditation?” you suggest.

For a moment, I’m surprised you didn’t say “instead of your VR meditation.” But of course you know that long-standing habits aren’t easily broken, and you don’t mind meeting me where I am. Now it’s for us both to re-equilibrate. I nod to accept your offer, and you turn your eyes from me back to that poetry.

Soramimi Hanarejima is the author of the neuropunk story collection Literary Devices For Coping. Soramimi’s recent work appears in Pulp Literature, Reed Magazine and Outlook Springs.