“I think it’s like drowning,” Olivia said.
“Drowning?” Mr Lux asked, inclining his head.
“Unequal love, I mean,” she clarified. “Being that... hanger-on. You think that, just because you care about somebody more than anybody else in the world, they care about you just as much.
That you’re... meant for one another, somehow. That’s the swimming part.”
“Because you can’t keep at it forever?”
“Exactly. Sooner or later, it begins to dawn on you – you’re not important. You don’t *matter*. You see them with somebody else, and they’re so enthusiastic, so carefree.
But when you’re with them, every step is a struggle. Every moment of interaction, it feels like you’re imposing on somebody who would rather be anywhere else, and you feel *awful*.
It kills you inside, an inch at a time.”
“It’s like that moment when you’ve been swimming until your whole body is sore, but there’s neither land nor ships on the horizon.
You still entertain some small hope, but the drive that pushed you onward is gone. You stop swimming and start to tread water, doing the bare minimum you can manage in order to stay afloat.”
Olivia sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose between thumb and forefinger. “I’m sorry. This is all probably nonsense to you.”
“No, no,” Mr Lux replied. “I’m here to listen. Please, go on.”
Olivia swallowed. “Once your treading water, it’s only a matter of time.
You don’t *want* to think about anybody else, you just want to focus on how good the one you want to be with makes you feel. But you’re brain can’t help but keep making comparisons.
It niggles away, little knives stabbing at you every time you see them laugh or cry with somebody else in a way they’d *never* laugh or cry with you.
“And that poisons everything. You can’t even enjoy interacting with them anymore, because it’s always in the back of your mind, that thought: ‘They don’t want this. I’m imposing on them.
I’m being selfish.’ You can’t be with them because you care about them *too much*, because you know you’re just some clingy hanger-on who will never make *them* happy.
“And that’s the part where you stop treading water. The part where you realize all of this is futile. You’ll never reach land, and nobody will ever come to rescue you. And you’re just so...
*tired*. So you rest.”
Mr Lux furrowed his brows. “And that’s how you ended up here.”
Olivia nodded. “The first pill was hard. I was eaten up by indecision. But after that, everything that followed was easy.” She frowned. “...There’s just one thing I’d like to know.”
“Oh? What’s that?”
“Did they... care? When they heard the news? In that one instant, did they finally care about me as much as I did about them?”
Mr Lux smiled sadly. “That’s knowledge won’t be of any use to you where you’re going.” He stood up, offering Olivia his arm. “Come on. It’s time to leave.”