Choice at a Crossroads

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

Malia struggles to come to terms with the world as she finds herself falling in love. First publication, very meta-fiction oriented.

She stood at a crossroads, far too many roads open to her. Where they led, she didn’t know. Malia lay in her bed, staring at the ceiling and contemplating her next choices. Option one was to leave everything just as it was, to not push anything, to wait passively, wait for him to make the next move, and see where everything went, without lifting a finger. Her next choice was to take the plunge head first. Ask him out, and destroy the years of effort she’d used to build up her emotional walls. Already they had begun to crack when she’d kissed him. It had been reciprocated thankfully enough, yet Malia couldn’t help the feeling that something was off. Sure, it was two in the morning and she’d yet to fall asleep after a long day’s work, but something kept her awake. She felt as though she was missing something, some key piece of information which, once she figured it out, everything would fall into place.

Malia had to believe that somewhere between the two extremes of complete passivity and diving in, was the answer. She hated nothing more than initiating conversations, it made her feel weak, needy and vulnerable. Malia shuddered as she remembered a nightmare. It was hazy, as many nightmares were, but she could distinctly remember unanswered texts, and a restraining order. She’d woken up in a cold sweat, and had immediately relaxed as she realized it had been nothing more than a bad dream. Better yet, he had actually answered. Malia decided; she could wait until he texted her, then she could ask him. It seemed like a good balance.

Malia rolled over and buried her face into her pillow as her mind plucked at her insecurities and drew them out. What if she was imagining what she saw? What if he was just playing? What if he completely ignored her, despite what she thought was there between them? It surely wouldn’t be the first time. Malia had fallen in love exactly once until he came along, and that had left her ego so shattered, she was still looking for all the pieces.

She knew now, that flirtation could mean almost nothing, and to most people, it was as natural as breathing, but an art form in and of itself. Malia had no talent for it, she couldn’t read emotions as well as those around her, and could hardly express her own. While some girls seemed to inherently know when to smile, giggle and bat their eyelashes, she struggled with an awkward laugh, downcast eyes, and the constant shifting of her weight to either leg. Malia brought her knees to her chest and wrapped her arms around them, curling herself tightly, as if wrapping herself up would protect her from what she knew was the inevitable, miserable end. He was proud of himself, and walked with his chin held high, with a look of what she always thought was one of mild annoyance with the world.

She, on the other hand was nervous, jumpy and lived with the constant belief the world was out to get her. Malia was target oriented. She acquired a target, and would stop at nothing to get it. Years of disappointment and mounting insecurities however, had created significant road blocks. While Malia almost always knew exactly what she wanted, she couldn’t plow headlong towards it, for fear she’d fail again. Even the strongest souls can only take so many blows.

Malia knew what she wanted, but was afraid to seek it out. Despite her cynicism, and belief that love was a social construct, part of Malia wanted that ideal relationship. The long walks on the beach, sitting infront of the TV, and being in a comfortable, complete silence, with that special person. She shook herself, shattering the image which made her feel ill and sad.

She knew that she couldn’t rely on any emotion she felt. Just as she misread others, she misread herself. All Malia could do was wait for some solid proof, then, from there, she could make the decision. Take the leap of faith, or teeter around the subject until it went away.

Then, of course, there was the issue of the physical interaction between the two of them. He would touch her as he walked by, sometimes a firm hand on her back, other times a slight brush of his fingers. Low enough, she believed, to be more than a friendly gesture, but high enough not to be creepy. Sometimes it was on her stomach, gently pushing her backwards in the direction he went. She was surprisingly comfortable with it, and had never had any desire to stop him. The one time he had hugged her she’d been in so much shock she’d stood completely rigid; every muscle in her body tightened beyond belief and she had been completely unable to move. When he’d pulled her in, she’d been stiff as a board, her arms glued to her sides.

Some people were like that, she knew. They felt their way through the world, plowing headlong into a throng of people, whereas Malia preferred to watch, and evade. They were of almost completely different personalities, but despite the inherent mismatch, Malia felt…something. Therein lay the root of her despair.

 The last time she had felt this way, this uncomfortable feeling which left knots in her stomach, and a tightening in her chest, she’d ended up exactly where she lay, curled up in her bed, hiding from the world. It had been weeks before she had lifted her chin, weeks more before she’d been able to look anyone in the eye, and almost half a year before she could forgive the man she’d fallen in love with. Though he’d never been at fault, she’d unfairly blamed him, as she blamed herself. The entirety of it all was something for which she would never forgive herself completely. Despite the months that had passed, the memory of the constant fear, exhaustion from consistent calculations, and the feeling which she could only describe as a hole in her heart, were all too vivid.

I don’t want that to happen, to take what should be a wonderful thing, and have it turn into that dark, twisted fear which took over too much of my life.

From that moment, she had begun to build barriers in her mind. Her already compartmentalized world became even more disconnected. With the exception of a few close friends, she separated the people around her into three categories; emotional, intellectual, and physical. It was a theoretically foolproof defense mechanism. If every person she met fell into one specific category, then, if she lost one, she had two other categories to pick up the slack. When her physical relationship had ended like an old car sputtering to a final stop, she’d been completely unfazed. The strongest emotion she had felt was mild annoyance.

Yet this man had popped into her life, and already she felt him chipping away at the barriers between the three categories. Malia mentally slapped herself, cursing the lack of structural integrity, but there was nothing she could do to stop it. Malia had placed him immediately into the intellectual category. Yet with the brushes of his hand, and not to mention the fact that she had kissed him, he was bringing down the barriers on the physical side.

What had she been thinking, exactly, when she’d leaned in? It was something she had considered doing several times in her life, but she would always wake up the next morning, completely devoid of any desire to take the leap. She could blame her actions on the sweltering heat all she wanted, but the fact remained. She’d shocked herself with her own actions and the sudden changed scared her. It’s fascinating, that he found out more about me in a few short hours, than I tell many of my friends in months. Part of her didn’t want it to happen, but somewhere in her psyche, she wanted him to bring the walls down, if only to see where it would lead.

Malia wanted to let herself go, see where life would take her. Imagine if something actually went right for once in my life? Imagine someone actually liking me. There’s a first for the world. It was all too much to hope for, and Malia opened her eyes to complete darkness, rocking slightly. She was wary of him, desperately trying to read him, but completely unable. I’ve managed to fend off and compartmentalize every other human being, without fail, in my life. However, he’s different, and that scares me. I’m completely blanketed in fear because if I open myself up one more time, and it goes as horribly wrong, as the previous one did, I’m not sure if I could ever recover. Malia knew it was an over dramatization, but she knew the fragility of her personality. She wasn’t even halfway through her prospected lifespan, she had years upon years to find the right person. But I know myself well enough to know that that may never happen. I’ll be so focused on work, and the rest of my life, that it will pass me by completely. Malia feared that someday, in twenty years, or sixty, she would look back on her life and feel regret. Having let love slip though her fingers because she couldn’t look up from the textbook, or the operating table.

My problem is that I get tunnel vision. I see my goal, and don’t see everything else I’m missing. When I do something, I devote myself completely to it. I want to be completely forward and direct, but my insecurities have always gotten in my way. Malia believed, and knew for a fact, that deep down, the main reason she’d never been in a relationship was that she instilled a sort of fear in those around her. She was frank and would get straight to the point, something which offset many people. Malia smiled slightly as she thought of Smaug’s line. “I instill terror in the hearts of men”. It seemed incredibly accurate.

She shook herself, trying to refocus herself onto the issue at hand. Which road to take, which decision to make? To put herself out there, and risk what little of herself she had rebuilt, or be so passive that, without a miracle, the whole thing would breeze by her. All she would be able to do was watch. I can’t even read him, I don’t know what he’s thinking. Anyone else would inherently know, but I look at him and I see just him, I don’t know what he wants. I don’t even know what I want. This isn’t something I know how to deal with. I sit here in a paralyzing, indecisive fear. I don’t know which road to take, what to do, what to say. I want to know where I’m going, but the only thing I see is that inevitable, miserable end.

I’ve tried to pretend that these things I feel aren’t mine, that the emotions belong to someone else. I’ve given her a name, and willed myself to believe that Malia is another person. That she’s some fictional character, whose psyche is completely separate from mine. However, I can’t lie to myself, she’s just as much a part of me as I am of her. I’m standing at a crossroads, far too many roads ahead of me. They may all lead to the same destination, but I have no way of knowing. I have to choose, I can’t stand here, in limbo, forever. Do I take the risk, and try to persuade myself it will all be fine? Or do I hope, that by standing here doing nothing, all will resolve itself.

Someone once told me that love isn’t supposed to be painful, that it shouldn’t be something I fear. They said I needed to learn to let go of my insecurities, live in the moment and go for it. I did it once, and to be honest, it didn’t end terribly.

 So maybe, just maybe, I can make something of this. I am my insecurities, they are part of me. I am the whole of my mistakes, my choices, and my innate inability to read people. My choice, is to live, and work with them, or let them consume me completely.

I think perhaps my best option is not to take any one road, but to make my own. Sure, they may all lead to the same place, but this way, I won’t know where the road is going, not because I haven’t travelled it yet, but because I have yet to make it.

Then, slowly but surely, Malia relaxed each muscle, one at a time. She lay on her side, close her eyes, and leapt into the comforting darkness of sleep.

 


Submitted: July 20, 2015

© Copyright 2022 Tilereen. All rights reserved.

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