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Sink Or Swim

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Sitting down to watch your memories seemed like a good idea at the time. Good memories, good feelings. Except you didn’t take into account the fact that you had a lot of bad memories. So that’s how you ended up leaving your house to have a good cry near the fountain in the middle of the night.

The Good Place wasn’t what you expected. You had hoped you could finally be happy, and that you were surrounded by new friends and good food. But the food was mediocre and you still had your anxiety from when you were alive, so talking to people was out of the question. No matter how many times Michael told you to socialize and talk to people like your soulmate and neighbors, you couldn’t do it. Plus, your ‘soulmate’ wasn’t anything what you wanted. For one, you were gay in your life, but your soulmate was a woman; she was the complete opposite of you: she was extroverted, way too happy and clingy, and would always talk over you when you tried to say something. You were thankful she was finally getting the memo that you didn’t love her. Except that meant when you leave the house you have to deal with her giving you the evil eye. Didn’t go well with your anxiety.

The Good Place was becoming your Bad Place, and seeing those memories again really hit it home.

“Feeling okay?”

At the sound of Michael’s voice you quickly wiped your tears. “Huh? Uh, yeah, I’m cool.” You avoided eye contact with the architect out of fear he would see how fucked up you felt.

A few seconds passed, then Michael sat down beside you. “There’s a party over at Tahani’s. A lot of people, I could introduce you. Quite lonely out here all by yourself, I would expect.”

“Sorry, but I’m not in the mood for any parties.” You tried to sniff quietly, shuddering when you felt your face scrunch up with unshed tears.

“I see. Janet, some tissues?”

“Right here.” Without delay she held out a box of tissues.

“Thank you, Janet, that will be all.” Taking the box from her as she disappeared, he handed it to you. You hesitated, but took it from him, pulling out a tissue to blow your nose.

The both of you sat in silence for a bit, the only sound being the fountain behind you. Michael seemed to be waiting for you to speak up first, maybe explain why you were sitting on a fountain at midnight when there was a party.

“I watched some of my memories,” you said.

“The memories of what you did to get to the Good Place?”

“Not exactly. They were- okay, they were bad memories.”

“Things you did?”

“Things done to me.”

“Ah.” He paused, looking for what to say. “Why would you watch those if they so obviously disturb you?”

You didn’t know how to answer that. “I don’t know,” you said quietly, shoulders sagging; you were afraid that Michael would be disappointed in you now that he knew you were basically purposefully ruining your time in the Good Place. “I’m sorry.”

Michael shifted to look at you. “I have seen your entire life,” he began, “I know everything you did, everything that happened to you, all your memories that led you to coming here.” He put his hand on your shoulder; the action got you to look up into his eyes. “You’re an extraordinary human being. You don’t have to suffer anymore.”

“But I do- but I am suffering,” you choked out. “Ever since I got here. I don’t know why, but I’m still the same. I’m sad and anxious and- and I thought that when I died I would be happy again, but I’m not and I-” You had to stop talking so you wouldn’t cry; you just hung your head in shame. “I’m a failure of a good person,” you mumbled.

“Hey,” Michael said softly. “It’s okay. When humans die, you don’t magically become happy. You still have your whole range of emotions and that will never go away. But if you really feel like this, it’s my own fault for not encouraging you to tell me sooner.” The hand not on your shoulder touched your cheek just barely, the softest gesture you’ve ever received from someone. You let your eyes slip shut, leaning into the palm of his hand and letting out a shaky breath. Michael wiped away a stray tear with his thumb.

“I’m sorry,” you said again.

“Oh, don’t say that, you have nothing to be sorry for.” You looked up at him, all teary-eyed; he gave you a small smile. “How about we get some frozen yogurt to cheer ourselves up, huh?”

You nodded, letting him help you stand and lead you to the frozen yogurt shop that was surprisingly still open. He put his arm around you, a comforting gesture you were grateful for.

“Thank you,” you said when you were halfway done yours.

“No thanks necessary.”

You looked up from your frozen yogurt to see him watching you carefully; when your eyes met he gave you a smile and continued eating.

“Tomorrow you can come to my office and we can discuss how to improve your life here in the Good Place. How does that sound?”

“It sounds great.” You made a try at a smile.

“Excellent.”

When the both of you finished your frozen yogurt, he stopped you before you began the walk home.

“Would you like me to walk you home?” he asked.

You gave a small snort. “I thought you had a party to get back to.”

Michael shrugged. “If they need anything, they can ask Janet. Plus, I’m already here, aren’t I?”

“Thanks, but no thanks. I can get home by myself. Have a good night, Michael.”

“You too.”

You walked until you were to turn a corner; looking back, Michael seemed to be watching you leave. He gave you a wave, and you gave a little wave back before losing sight of him completely.