Sitting inside the cafe, she watched him with curious eyes as he talked about himself, shedding that invincible persona for the first time. The moment felt so precious and unreal she was scared to say anything should it break the fragility of the moment.
She didn't even know how the conversation had steered this way - one minute they were talking about the cafe and how it was bustling with people, mostly couples who had ordered pastries and drinks as a pretense to spend more seconds with each other... he had just been making fun of the couple to their left, scoffing at the ridiculous argument they were having - something about how cheesy their teasing was because they clearly meant none of it; it was all just another way to evoke a response out of one another, trying to push the other person to resign... the old game of push-and-pull.
And now he was talking, really talking. He felt like he viewed the world differently from everyone else. The way his mind churned was so calculating that the moment he looked at any place, any person, he made an automatic evaluation. The prices of items on the menu, the interior design of the cafe; did they make a worthwhile profit? The outfit of the girl who walked in - a poor attempt at looking classy, poor because her heels were clearly killing her and her bag wasn't the right brand - not by any means a cheap brand, but not of a standard that really boasted of the wealth she was trying to pull off.
And this was just the start. His mind never shut down - he exhaustively thought through every everything - where was his life going to go next? The job he had landed come September had been far from his first choice, nor was the pay nearly high enough to make it seem worthwhile. The girl he loved, he had ultimately rejected because how could he possibly take care of someone else, shower someone else with the adoration they deserved when his own problems seemed insurmountable? How was he supposed to be the head of the family now that their father was out of the picture when he couldn't even figure out his own life? How was he supposed to calm his mother and coax her into depending on him when he wasn't even sure he wanted her to?
Insomnia. Antidepressants in secret. Tunneling into his own room and shutting down for days at a time when things became too overwhelming. Alcohol, cigarettes, occasional flings to feel alive again once the hibernation became too much.
This was how he had lived. This was the naked truth - he was not okay. He was not confident. He was feeling anything but strong.
"I can't do it"
And she looked at her brother for the first time, feeling everything he had just expressed, the anxiety, frustration, loneliness... and she wanted to ask him why it had taken so long for him to tell her this, because she had wanted nothing more than this - to have him lean on her, to drop the all-knowing, protective act just for a second and be vulnerable.
And she said the only thing she could think of. They were but four words that would solve nothing and leave the problems as large as they were before, but she was hoping it would convey the fact that despite everything, she cared, she loved him, she was listening, and she was willing to do so again whenever.
Because no one should do it alone - no one should ever have to face it alone.