Crossroads

It seems you are having feelings and are at a loss.

To be more precise, you are at a crossroads. A signpost with a couple of askew planks each pointing in a particular direction, nailed to a wooden pole that’s a long time past sturdy. None of the arrows fulfill their designated roles of leading you a destination – pointing unwholesomely into a fivefold of ways where only fog invites you in. Unpredictability, or something? It’s hard to see; no more visible than your room at 3 AM, curtains drawn since the morning before, an unnatural, brightly-lit screen interrogating you. Like the desk lamp of a hardboiled detective except he’s not the trenchcoated private eye from the movies/that one weird internet story but actually the friend you really need to respond to. It’s your turn to talk.

You are reminded of that video game you once played, you forget the name – or maybe you’re thinking about all of them? ‘If I head down one path for too long, I have to come back and check out the other paths’. Maybe you’ll find a treasure chest, conceptualised by a gesture so concrete you’ll have a hard time reading it wrongly. Luckily, game design has little to do with personal relationships – although you have caught yourself wishing on a soft breath for a tier system of some kind. Just, a little counter hovering over their head or heart to give you an indication of where you are, of what you are. Am I a 2? A 5? You don’t presume any number higher than that. The chimes of an insecurity echo throughout the hollows in your head and in your bones, there exists the possibility you may be imposing. Overestimating how intimate you are (why did you think it was a good idea to touch them?). Misjudging the topics open for conversation (no one cares about your headcanons). Blunder at having fun (you killed the convo with your politics again). Failing to be there for them (you set it to Appear offline when they logged in). Failed to heal them (the chat equivalent of a shoulder pat). Those feelings have you at a loss.

The paths go on for a while. You’ve checked out three paths already and backed down each. Apparently video games have more influence on you than you’d assumed. Final Fantasy 9 revolutionised traditional turn-based battle systems by adding the ‘Active Time Battle’ mechanic. So whomever you were engaged with stopped waiting for you to perform an action – suddenly, they had other things to do. This was true for you as well. The silence of expecting a reply turned into a more common silence. In your mind, you replayed every conversation. Every motion you performed – maybe you hadn’t practiced enough -, the cadence your words trembled with – too monotonous? -, the “haha” where you could have put a sentence. Did you fail again? Traipsing down distances of misty paths leading nowhere reminds you of the lengths that speech has to cover. Of emotional brambles that have to be traversed and destroyed. A gas clouds your mind, of where you should lead this conversation, if you should follow through with it. A continental map of all the what-ifs and but-thens avails nothing without a ‘YOU ARE HERE’ mark. You turn back.

The fifth path is just as difficult to navigate, treacherous even, as the ones before. But there’s a glimmer in the distance, a promise of reward for better than before. It’s your last option, but that just means you HAVE to be rewarded, right? The fog of war clears and still no outline of a treasure chest, yet you know this is the right track. The end of the line is still obscured by come-what-mays but you are no longer a stranger to the lands between mouth and ear, no longer a tempest of two breaths curving around each other, despairing to seek a centre. Incessance did not achieve this, neither did inaction. It simply took time. The unmarked signpost did a horrible job, but you’re glad the fog invited you in. There is someone standing opposite you. You wait anxiously, excitedly, for a reply. It’s their turn to talk.

“Whaat? No way, that’s my favourite game, too!”

Your fog dissipates – turning into the steamy aromas of a hot drink. You could be in your room or a coffee shop in a city you’re familiar with or never have been before; it suddenly feels very comfortable.

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