Consider what love is.

from Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy page 512 fiction ~6 min read

‘Yes, what was that last thing I thought about so nicely?’ she tried to remember. ‘Twitkin, Coiffeur? No, not that. Yes, it was what Yashvin said: the struggle for existence and hatred – the only thing that connects people. No, you’re going in vain,’ she mentally addressed a company in a coach–and–four who were evidently going out of town for some merriment. ‘And the dog you’re taking with you won’t help you. You won’t get away from yourselves.’ Glancing in the direction in which Pyotr had just turned, she saw a half–dead–drunk factory worker with a lolling head being taken somewhere by a policeman. ‘Sooner that one,’ she thought. ‘Count Vronsky and I didn’t find that pleasure either, though we expected so much from it.’ And now for the first time Anna turned the bright light in which she saw everything upon her relations with him, which she had avoided thinking about before. ‘What was he looking for in me? Not love so much as the satisfaction of his vanity.’ She remembered his words, the expression on his face, like an obedient pointer, in the early days of their liaison. And now everything confirmed it. ‘Yes, there was the triumph of successful vanity in him. Of course, there was love, too, but for the most part it was the pride of success. He boasted of me. Now it’s past. Nothing to be proud of. Not proud but ashamed. He took all he could from me, and I’m of no use to him any more. I’m a burden to him, and he tries not to be dishonourable towards me. He let it slip yesterday – he wants the divorce and marriage in order to burn his boats. He loves me – but how? The zest is gone,’ she said to herself in English. ‘This one wants to astonish everybody and is very pleased with himself,’ she thought, looking at a red–cheeked sales clerk riding a rented horse. ‘Yes, I no longer have the same savour for him. If I leave him, at the bottom of his heart he’ll be glad.’

This was not a supposition. She saw it clearly in that piercing light which now revealed to her the meaning of life and of people’s relations.

‘My love grows ever more passionate and self–centred, and his keeps fading and fading, and that’s why we move apart,’ she went on thinking. ‘And there’s no help for it. For me, everything is in him alone, and I demand that he give his entire self to me more and more. While he wants more and more to get away from me. We precisely went towards each other before our liaison, and after it we irresistibly move in different directions. And it’s impossible to change that. He tells me I’m senselessly jealous, and I’ve told myself that I’m senselessly jealous, but it’s not true. I’m not jealous, I’m dissatisfied. But...’ She opened her mouth and shifted her place in the carriage from the excitement provoked by the thought that suddenly occurred to her. ‘If I could be anything else but a mistress who passionately loves only his caresses – but I cannot and do not want to be anything else. And by this desire I provoke his disgust, and he provokes my anger, and it cannot be otherwise. Don’t I know that he would not deceive me, that he doesn’t have any intentions towards Princess Sorokin, that he is not in love with Kitty, that he will not be unfaithful to me? I know all that, but it’s none the easier for me. If he is kind and gentle towards me out of duty, without loving me, and I am not to have what I want – that is a thousand times worse even than anger! It’s hell! And that is what we have. He has long ceased loving me. And where love stops, hatred begins. I don’t know these streets at all. Some sort of hills, and houses, houses ... And in the houses people, people ... So many, no end of them, and they all hate each other. Well, so let me think up for myself what I want in order to be happy. Well? I get the divorce, Alexei Alexandrovich gives me Seryozha, and I marry Vronsky.’ Remembering Alexei Alexandrovich, she immediately pictured him with extraordinary vividness as if he were standing before her, with his meek, lifeless, extinguished eyes, the blue veins on his white hands, his intonations, the cracking of his fingers, and, remembering the feeling there had been between them, which was also called love, she shuddered with disgust. ‘Well, I’ll get the divorce and be Vronsky’s wife. What, then? Will Kitty stop looking at me as she did today? No. And will Seryozha stop asking or thinking about my two husbands? And between me and Vronsky what new feeling will I think up? Is anything – not even happiness but just not torment – possible? No, nothing!’ she answered herself now without the least hesitation. ‘Impossible! Our lives are parting ways, and I have become his unhappiness and he mine, and it’s impossible to remake either him or me. All efforts have been made; the screw is stripped. Ah, a beggar woman with a child. She thinks she’s to be pitied. Aren’t we all thrown into the world only in order to hate each other and so to torment ourselves and others. Students going by, laughing. Seryozha?’ she remembered. ‘I also thought I loved him and used to be moved by my own tenderness. But I did live without him, exchanged him for another love, and didn’t complain of the exchange as long as I was satisfied by that love.’ And with disgust she remembered what it was that she called ‘that love’. And she was glad of the clarity with which she now saw her own and everyone else’s life. ‘So it is with me, and with Pyotr, with the driver Fyodor, and that merchant, and all the people living there on the Volga, where these announcements invite one to go, and everywhere and always,’ she thought, as she drove up to the low building of the Nizhni Novgorod station and the attendants came running to meet her.

‘A ticket to Obiralovka?’ said Pyotr.

She had completely forgotten where and why she was going, and only with great effort was able to understand the question.

‘Yes,’ she said, handing him her purse and, with her small red bag on her arm, she got out of the carriage.

Walking through the crowd into the first–class waiting room, she gradually recalled all the details of her situation and the decisions among which she had been hesitating. And first hope, then despair over old hurts again began to chafe the wounds of her tormented, terribly fluttering heart. Sitting on a star–shaped sofa and waiting for the train, looking with revulsion at the people coming in and going out (they all disgusted her), she thought of how she would arrive at the station, write a note to him, and of what she would write, then of how he was now complaining to his mother (not understanding her suffering) about his situation, and how she would come into the room and what she would say to him. Then she thought of how life could still be happy, and how tormentingly she loved and hated him, and how terribly her heart was pounding.

—Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, p. 512