I was observing her for quite a time. She sat in the veranda, staring into nothing, playing with the cell phone in her hand. With an audible groan, I lowered myself into the armchair. Only then did she notice me. Quickly, she stopped playing with her phone and unlocked it to start typing something. I settled myself in my chair.
“You worry too much for your age,” I told her, when she refused to lift up her gaze.
She smiled like every day, still looking into the phone “No, it’s alright.”
“But act better!”
I thought she would not give away. If she didn’t want to talk about it, she wouldn’t talk about it. Today though, her smile faded into a serious face. She sighed and looked up from her phone, staring into nothing again.
“The world is not the same, grandpa. It’s not how it used to be in your times. It’s not so simple anymore.”
“That’s fine. But what exactly is the point of your worry?”
She let some moments pass and then spoke, being very liberal with the pauses, “There’s… this guy who has been a close friend of me since a year now. We talk… a lot, about everything. He shares his troubles, I share mine, and we stand by each other. We connect, like long lost siblings, you know! But one day, all of a sudden, he tells me that he has feelings for me…. I had to decline. I never felt like that for him. He probably didn’t expect me to be so sure about it. It was hard for him but at least let us be friends, he said, and I agreed. Because he’s a good guy. Because he’s one of my best friends at last. But he still has feelings for me. He tries to dress up all the hurt, but it’s clearly visible to me. And now, it gets more complicated.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m in relationship with another guy.” She told me as if she was cheating on the guy, “And he doesn’t know that. And if he comes to know, he’ll be devastated. He is yet to get over me, it’s a long way to go for him in fact.
“Sometimes I feel like slapping him… hard across the face, to make him not to be so attached.” She was thinking aloud, “But it isn’t so simple, is it? Or should I tell him? But then he’ll be badly disturbed. Ugh! This is so hard! Oh god, why?”
She kept her phone down and held her head by her hands.
I moved closer to her and took her hand. “Often, you don’t have a choice between good and bad, but only bad and… less… bad. Of course, you choose the least bad, but a choice between two negatives cannot be positive. You have to make the choice anyway. Some decisions, no matter how hard, must be taken. Postponing them only makes it harder.”
“But what if it disturbs him? Won’t it be a huge heartbreak for him?”
“It will disturb him. He’ll probably even stop talking to you at all.” I said, “But he’ll come to understand it over time. Scarred, but beating hearts are anytime better than broken trust. I think you should tell him as it happens.”
She withdrew into silence, trying to solve the inscrutable dilemma.
“It’s his mistake, actually. You declined him, which means you were going to get away with someone else eventually. If he still chooses to be attached to you so much then little can anyone else do to protect him.” I consoled her. “The greatest freedom you can give someone is the freedom to do their own mistakes, dear. Maybe he’ll break himself further, but you cannot help him. You can only choose to break him with the truth, or break him with the lie.”
“I’m not lying to him. I’m only hiding this from him, I’m only trying not to hurt him.”
“You are not the one hurting him!”
She understood I was saying the right things, but it was too soon for her to understand the real meaning. Quotes are but a snapshot of the experience after all.
“Ugh!!” She let out a groan of frustration. “What do I do?”
“What do you do!” I repeated her question, amused at the games that guilt plays. “You do what you feel is the ‘least bad’. What is the ‘least bad’?”
She thought for a moment, guilt falling over her while she did.
“Somehow, I cannot bring myself to the decision to tell him. I… can’t explain why right now, but I think I won’t tell him. We’ll see when he finds out. When I tell him why I did it, he’ll understand. I can’t do anything about it right now.” She talked like she wanted to give up on its worry. Her expressions, gestures told another story.
“Fine,” I assured her. “Go ahead. And let me know how it turns out.” I railed back in my armchair and closed my eyes. “I’m sure everything will be fine.”
A silence followed, until she spoke up again. “But… I still don’t feel good about this!” I could hear her restlessness in her voice. “Nothing can be fine now. It’s all ruined. How will it ever be fine?”
“Some things will be fine and some things will not be. But you’ll be strong enough to stand all of them. That is how. Love, or life, is like an ocean! You’re only going down a small stream of water. Stop worrying, my dear! Allow yourself the freedom to do some mistakes.” I patted her shoulder.