There are things which the body needs that it will strive for regardless of the risks. With strength born of a primal urge, it will pursue these things, even if the mind that governs it resists with what little strength it has. The body knows what it needs in order to survive, and when it sees itself on the brink of death, it dismisses the mind as foolish and acts without regard to its direction.
A starving man pursues foods which, in times of greater abundance, he might have dismissed as vile and tainted. He will eat from another man’s refuse, consuming that which has been dismissed as inedible by a person with a perspective more conducive to logic. He will eat untested, wild growth, risking the poison of unknown berries and fungi.
The body of a drowning man, deprived of oxygen, fights to inhale. Within his mind, the man knows that he is surrounded by water. He knows that inhalation means not life, but death. His body overrides him, in the last, and opens its mouth, drawing water into its lungs. He has no choice. The needs of his body are too powerful.
Walter, in his love for Ria, is the drowning man deprived of oxygen. There is a need for her, deep within him and far, far outside of his logical mind, for… her. He is starved for her presence in his life as his lungs are starved for oxygen and his stomach is starved for food. He has both of these things, and more besides: his life is overfull of that which sates him.
There was a time when Ria, too, gave enough of herself that he felt no need of more of her. He has always needed something of her, since the day they met. Their relationship introduced a need to him which he didn’t know could exist within a man: the need for her love and affection. Without it, he came to feel that he would wither away, as surely as a man deprived of food.
As the years passed, Ria began to give less of herself. She still cares for him. He can tell that much. Yet when once she would have cuddled close in the night, sharing her warmth with his, now she spreads out across the other side of the bed, and withdraws, even in her sleep, at his touch. Where once she would have leaned against him, pulling his arms around her, as they watched a movie on the couch, now she pulls a blanket over herself in her own chair, keeping her distance.
He wishes she would hold him, and kiss him, and press her forehead against his as she once did. He wishes Ria would meet his eyes and tell him she loves him, if only once a day. When they speak, she barely looks at him at all. She can’t even pretend to hold interest in their conversations anymore. She would rather watch a show, or text her friends, or browse through the sinkholes of time that make up the majority of the internet.
Walter needs more of her. The desire exists inside him like the ache of hunger and burning lungs. He can feel part of himself dying away, as the brain begins to decay when it has no access to oxygen. He fears this little death. He fears what his body will do, despite his mind’s advice, if it begins to see the threat to itself as dire.
He has nightmares of his body acting of its own accord. They end with him inhaling water that has suddenly encased his head. They begin with him waking in the night, his body moving without his direction as his arms snake around Ria. She resists, but his arms encompass her. With a strength he’s never had in his waking life, he takes ahold of her. He squeezes. Hard. He squeezes with such strength that Ria is crushed into him, becoming a part of him. Then the water comes, and he inhales, and he dies — but his death leads not to nothingness, but waking.
And then he is alone in the night in the dark of their bedroom. Alone, despite the fact that Ria sleeps beside him. He reaches out to touch her. If he’s lucky, she’s sleeping soundly enough that his hand can rest upon her side for a few, much-needed moments. Then she shifts, and his hand falls away, and he falls back to sleep to dream of holding her close once again.