Friday, August 16, 2019

Indifference (Equestria Girls)

[This is a story about someone who is deeply depressed and passively suicidal.  It contains discussion of ways one might accidentally die.  So, you know, if you need to steer clear, steer clear.]

Sunset turned at the sound of the door opening and saw Vice Principal Luna emerge.  At another time she might have been worried, she wasn’t exactly supposed to be here, but at the moment she didn’t care.

Luna raised a hand in a gesture of greeting that was almost a wave but didn’t quite make the cut, and then walked toward Sunset.

“If we ever get the lock on that door fixed,” Luna said, “all of the miscreants who sneak up here will be in for an unpleasant surprise when they try to leave.”

Sunset smirked and asked, “I’m a miscreant?”

“Miss Shimmer,” Luna said, “you are the miscreantest miscreant to ever miscrealy miscreant around on this planet.”

“Only one of those is a word,” Sunset said.  A moment later she amended that with, “Two, if you go by probable spelling rather than meaning.”

“They’ll catch on,” Luna said, “just you wait.”

Sunset smiled again, Luna returned the smile then looked over the edge of the roof.

“Yup,” she said, apparently to herself, “it’s still a long way down.”

Sunset didn’t have any trouble making the connection.

“I’m not going to jump,” she told Luna.

“I never said that you were,” Luna said.  “Mind if I join you?” she asked.

Sunset gestured to a section of parapet in front of her.

Luna sat on it, facing Sunset, then said, “Having established that you’re not here to jump, why are you here?”

“The view,” Sunset said.

Luna nodded.  “That’s why I come here too.”

A few seconds passed in silence.

“It’s your job to be the scary unapproachable authority figure who frightens all the students in line by ruthlessly handing out excessive punishment,” Sunset said.  “Why are we having a conversation that doesn’t involve you telling me I’m not allowed to be up here?”

“Sunset,” Luna said, “how would you describe what we’re doing right now?”

“We’re having a conversation,” Sunset said.  “An awkward, stilted, conversation.”

“That’s why you smiled,” Luna said with the dryest sarcasm Sunset had yet to hear.

Another second passed in silence.

“How would you describe it physically?” Luna asked.

“Uh . . .” Sunset said in a reflexive attempt to allow her brain the time necessary to understand what kind of answer was expected of her.  It didn’t work.  So she said, “We’re sitting.”

“Sitting and talking,” Luna summarized, “that’s all you see when you look at this?”  Luna gestured between them when she said ‘this’.

“Yeah,” Sunset said.  “It’s what’s here to be seen.”

“That’s interesting,” Luna said, “because what I see is two people, neither of whom has taken any safety related precautions, who are dangerously close to the edge of a roof.  Close enough that falling off of the building is a distinct --if unlikely-- possibility, in fact.”

“I’m not--” Sunset said.

“--going to jump,” Luna finished.  “I know.”

“Then why are you coming back to this?”

“Sunset, there’s a lot of space between actively suicidal and healthy,” Luna said.  “Sometimes you just don’t care whether you live or die.”

Sunset started to say something, but Luna held up her hands in a gesture of, ‘Wait,’ and Sunset did.

“It can be not eating enough, it can be not drinking enough, it can be not sleeping enough or not staying awake enough, it can be having your hunger and thirst die away, your emotions being replaced with apathy, and your ability to act, or even think, becoming dulled,” Luna paused.  “It can be sitting on the parapet at the edge of a roof, with no concern whatsoever about whether or not you might fall.”

Sunset said, “I’m not--”

Luna said, “--going to jump.”  Luna sighed.  “We’ve been through this, Sunset.”

Then what do you want me to say‽” Sunset shouted in exasperation.

Luna seemed to think that over for a moment, then she asked, “Do you ever wish you could go to sleep and never wake up?”

“That’s a trick,” Sunset said.  “Endless sleep isn’t an option.  Either you wake up, or you die in your sleep, but the question doesn’t ask, ‘Do you ever wish you could die in your sleep?’  It avoids the topic of death entirely.”

“So that’s a ‘Yes’,” Luna said.

“It’s a ‘Yes, but…’” Sunset said.  “I do, but it doesn’t matter.  It’s impossible.”

“While this is entirely beside the point,” Luna said, “you are aware that comas exist, right?”

“Doesn’t make a difference,” Sunset said.  “It only ends two ways: wake up or die in your sleep.  There are no other options, and --no matter how long it takes-- you have to do one or the other eventually.”

“It’s called being passively suicidal,” Luna said, “and I really wish it weren’t.  People have this idea in their head about what it means to be suicidal, and they know they’re not that, so they assume they’re not anything that has the word ‘suicidal’ in the name.”

“Are you supposed to be a psychologist now?” Sunset asked.  She honestly wasn’t sure if she was asking because she was genuinely wondering or because she was being sarcastic.

“No,” Luna said, “not even close."  For a moment Luna looked like she might laugh at the possibility, but she didn't.

After another moment, Luna said, “I’m someone who has starved --obviously not to death-- in a house full of food.  I’m someone who has become severely dehydrated when surrounded by things to drink.  I’m someone who lost years of her life in a barely conscious haze because she wasn’t getting enough sleep, calories, or hydration.

“I’m someone who used to lie awake in bed for hours on end, sometimes well into the afternoon or evening, because I couldn’t muster the motivation needed to get out of the damned thing in the morning.”  Luna paused.  “I’m someone who sat on the edges of rooftops, without a single thought for my safety, to take in a view I would have seen just as well without going to the edge.”

It took Sunset a while to process that.  It was more than she had ever expected to learn about her vice principal.  “Luna . . .” she said with nothing but compassion, but she couldn’t find any words to go after it.

Luna simply waited.  She showed no signs of impatience; she just sat there and gave Sunset time to think.

Finally Sunset said, “I’m really sorry for what you’ve been through, and it’s great that you trust me enough to tell me all this, but that’s not--”

“Sunset,” Luna said, “if you look me in the eyes and swear that you’re eating, drinking and sleeping enough, that you’re taking care of yourself, that you’re not taking unnecessary risks or ignoring your personal safety or lack thereof, I’ll believe you.”

Sunset thought about that.  It was an out.  All she had to do was lie to Luna, and Luna would drop it.  It wasn’t like she had never lied before.  She’d lied all the time.  Frequently to Luna.  On the other hand, it was also a display of incredible trust.  Luna was telling her that she’d believe Sunset, whatever Sunset said, even though she knew Sunset was an accomplished liar.  That made the prospect of lying to Luna seem like an even larger betrayal than it would otherwise be.

Sunset closed her eyes, took a deep breath, opened her eyes, looked Luna in the eyes, and spoke.

“I’m not sure the last time I ate," she said, "I think it was probably breakfast yesterday, but I’m really not sure; dehydration and I are long time companions; I try to sleep on a schedule, but it never works, so I don't sleep much; sometimes I want nothing more than for darkness to take me and the world to never bother me again.”

Sunset took a breath and looked over the side of the school.  It was a long way down.  They were dangerously close to the edge.

“I know --logically-- that if I were to fall off the roof I’d be terrified.  I know that I’d almost certainly die on impact, and thus not have any post-terrified time to think.  I know that if I somehow did have that time, I’d probably be in too much pain to form coherent thoughts about my feelings and outlook.  But . . .” Sunset paused for a long time.  “I feel like, if somehow I did have the time and ability to consider my situation, then --as I lay broken and dying on the ground far below-- I wouldn’t mind.”

Sunset saw nothing but concern in Luna’s eyes.

“But that doesn’t mean--” she said.

“--that you’re going to jump,” Luna said.

“I’m not planning on falling either,” Sunset said.

“But the prospect doesn’t bother you,” Luna said.

Sunset nodded.

“It’s the same for if a store I happened to be in were robbed, and I got hit by a stray bullet,” she said, “or if some jackass ran a red light and hit me in the crosswalk.  I feel like, as I lay there dying, I’d be ok with it.”  Sunset looked away.  “And I’m not sure the world would lose anything with my passing.”

“That’s the brain weasels talking,” Luna said.

“Brain weasels?” Sunset repeated in something that was lodged firmly in the ambiguous territory between question and statement.

“Technical term,” Luna said.

“Uh huh,” was Sunset’s response.

They lapsed into silence.

“Sunset, do you live with anyone?” Luna asked.

Sunset gave Luna a look that she hoped conveyed nigh inexpressible amounts of incredulity.

“I know that, as a unicorn from another world, you probably don’t have human parents to live with in this world, but you could have one or more roommates, or you could live with a boyfriend or a girlfriend.”

Living with a boyfriend was closest to true, in that it wasn’t entirely false one hundred percent of the time.

“Flash,” Sunset said.  “If it gets too cold, I crash in his guest room.  He and his parents have made clear that it’s always open to me, no matter what disagreements any of us may have, whenever I need a warm bed.”

“Do you think they’d be open to letting you stay for an extended period?” Luna asked.

“I’m not moving in with my ex,” Sunset said.  “It’s bad enough that I need to rely on him if we get a particularly harsh winter.”

“I’m not letting you be alone right now,” Luna said.  “And, no, it’s not because I think you’ll try to kill yourself.  You need someone to make sure you’re getting food, water, and sleep.  That’s at the bare minimum, ideally you should be getting a good deal more support.”

“You’re not letting me . ? .” Sunset sort of asked.

“Meaning that, unless you can offer up a more agreeable alternative, you’re moving in with me,” Luna said.

Sunset thought about that, then said, “Rumor has it that you live with your older sister in your parents’ old home.”

“I’ll have you know that I was bribed very handsomely to return to that house,” Luna said in a mock-serious fashion.

Sunset raised an eyebrow, “What were you bribed with?”

“The only true currency of the world’s elites,” Luna said, “video games and associated hardware.”

Sunset felt that she had raised her eyebrow too early, for now seemed like a much better time to raise it.  With eyebrow raising off the table, Sunset simply looked at Luna.

“My game cave is second to none,” Luna said.

Sunset didn't really know how to respond to that, and ended up saying, “Ok then,” as a way to signal that she felt the topic had run its course.

Luna shrugged.

As she thought about the larger context, Sunset realized that there was one thing left to say on the topic Luna's 'game cave'.

“If you want me to move in with you,” she said, “I’m getting access to all of that.”

“You're really into video games?” Luna asked.

“The opposite,” Sunset said; “I’ve basically never had access to them.”

Luna looked genuinely horrified.

“I have at least a decade of lost time to make up for,” Sunset added.

Luna offered her hand to Sunset and said, “It would be my honor and pleasure to lead you on this journey --this epic quest-- through digital worlds and toward the inevitable corruption of your impressionable young mind.”

Sunset shook the offered hand.  “I am well and truly bribed,” she announced.

“That’s good,” Luna said, “because I’d much rather bribe you than force you.”

There was silence for a while.  Then Luna stood up, offered Sunset her hand again, and said, “Come on.  It’s getting dark out here.”

Sunset grabbed Luna's hand, let Luna help her get up, noted that Luna’s grip was probably strong enough to stop her from falling if something went wrong, and then realized that an important detail hadn’t been addressed.

“How long is this arrangement going to last?” Sunset asked.

“Until you’re better,” Luna said matter-of-factly.

“What if I never am?” Sunset asked.  “Do I just stay with you and Celestia till I’m old and gray?”

Luna shrugged and started walking toward the door.  “We’ll cross that bridge if we ever actually come to it.”

Sunset had a silly thought.  She decided to give into it.  “After we cross it,” she asked, “can we burn it?”

“We’ll cross that bridge and decide whether or not to burn it if and when we come to it,” Luna said, a hint of mirth in her voice.

When they reached the door that would let them into the library and off of the roof, Luna stopped.

When she didn’t start again, and neither did she say anything, Sunset asked, “Something wrong?”

“You’ve been in this world for years,” Luna said, “plenty of time to get situated.  Twilight was only here for a few days, she doesn't seem nearly as adaptable as you, and I doubt she'd do well on the streets.”  Luna paused before finishing with, “Where did she live?”

Sunset was originally going to answer in a different way, but then she remembered where they were.  “Through that door,” she said.

“In the library?” Luna asked.

“You know the pile of books on the floor that everyone --everyone who sees it, at least-- says should be picked up, but no one ever actually disturbs?” Sunset asked.

“I think so,” Luna said with clear uncertainty.

“That was Twilight’s bed,” Sunset said.

“I . . .” Luna said, “have questions.”

“I may or may not have answers,” Sunset said.

“Are old reference books really that much softer than than the library carpet?” Luna asked.

“Don’t know,” Sunset answered.

“Why would she make it so high?” Luna asked.  “Even if the books are better to sleep on, I can’t see adding additional layers making things any better.”

“Not sure, but I would guess that it’s for the elevation, not the comfort,” Sunset said.  “If you can roll to get your knees under you--”

“--you stand a better chance of actually getting out of bed,” Luna finished.

“For Twilight it was probably more about ease of getting up, and not so much a question of whether or not it happened,” Sunset said, “but yeah.”

The two kept on talking as they walked through the school, from the roof access to the exit nearest the faculty lot.

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This comes out of reading a lot of fanfics based on the Equestria Girls Holiday Special comic.  It's quite bad and, like many other bad things, inspires a lot people.  ("I can do better," is a strong motivator.)

There's a tendency to try to make the invisible visible, which tends to mean making the psychological physical.  Sometimes bullying becomes more physical, sometimes the response does, sometimes both.

Sunset has a tendency to find herself standing at the edge of very tall things thinking about jumping.  (Sometimes she doesn't, sometimes she does, sometimes she tries but is stopped at the last possible second.)

This was born from the fact that there's a lot of space in which one isn't thinking about jumping but is very much in a bad place, mentally speaking.


Forgot to put this in the story: Part of the reason Sunset isn’t sure when she last ate is that she’s been avoiding the cafeteria.  Lunch on school days had been the one meal she was always sure to eat, but since she stopped visiting the cafeteria, that hasn’t been true.

Luna would have agreed that it was probably wise to avoid the cafeteria, while still finding the effect, vis à vis Sunset not eating, unacceptable.

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