Prose by Shaurya Arya-Kanojia
The Worst Decision
Indecision is the worst affliction, my mother used to say.
Now I realise how right she was. I’ve always been indecisive. I could never pick a restaurant. I would have my husband sit with me in the car for fifteen minutes before I decided where to go. Saturday evenings, where we sat in with a movie, became equally frustrating. For him, because I couldn’t decide what to watch; after browsing the entire Netflix listing, I ended up circling back and picking the one at the top. And for me, because, well, if you think things were difficult for him, you have no idea how agonising it is to live with disorganised, discordant thoughts in my head.
But that’s not just it. My mother won’t go shopping with me anymore. No one likes standing outside the trial rooms while I’m trying one dress after another, only to discard them for their colour, their fit (it may fit right, but it doesn’t feel right, you understand me?), or just the way I look in them. And once I’m done with the up to three clothes I’m allowed to take in, I ask her to bring me more. I do notice the other shoppers standing in the line behind me hassling her.
Nevertheless, you’d say these are mere inconveniences, right? Trivial, inconsequential inconveniences. People have had it worse. My indecisiveness over which restaurant or dress to pick can’t be as significant as the real woes some people endure in their everyday lives. Maybe I am a self-involved, snooty nag (I hate the word, but I think I deserve it) in saying my indecisiveness is a pain in the neck.
And I agree with you. Or at least I would have, until this moment. What renders me incapable of making a decision is the obsessive contemplation of the ramifications of my actions. What if it goes wrong? What if the consequences are dreadful? What if…
That man does something horrible to me?
I suppose this warrants some context.
It’s my sister’s birthday today. The two of us, and her closest friends, were out for dinner. My husband had to work; or so he said. The two of them have their differences. I would give anything to make things amicable between them, but, as my husband says (and I’m sure my sister would concur, which is ironical because the two never agree on anything), “there’s only so much you can meddle in.”
Anyway, after dinner, my sister suggested she would drop me back, even though I drove there myself. Apparently, as she said, “You had a little too much today.”
Come on, I only had two glasses of wine.
Okay, I had three.
So, after her friends had left in a cab (they were drunk), I convinced her I could drive myself. It took some doing. She had me multiply 25 by 87 to see if my math capabilities, which had always been above par, were functioning well. Only after I gave her the answer – 1275 – did she let me go.
I must have driven fifteen minutes when I turned right into the side-road that connected the two parallel highway lanes. At the end of this side-road, I would take a right, and drive another ten minutes to reach my neighbourhood.
It was pitch-black because the streetlights, ever since the road had been paved, weren’t working. It was then I realised how taking this side-road, a short-cut that spared me the longer route to get from one side to the other, was a bad idea. I wondered if I could attribute my lapse in judgement in driving through an unlit side-road at this time of the night to those three – I mean two, TWO! – glasses of wine.
I kept driving, wanting to hurry but taking my time so I didn’t end up going off course. A short distance away, a man appeared in front of my headlights. Waving emphatically, a look of helplessness on his face, he was asking me to stop. He held out his hands, then pointed at something – or someone – on the side of the road. I couldn’t see what, or who, it was.
But I stopped the car.
Not to help him. He was in turmoil, I could see that. Helping him was a humane thing to do. But I’m from the city, and I’ve grown up being told to never trust strangers. I wanted to help him, but I was also… scared. I could see the man, now holding his hands together, pleading.
Drive! the rational part of me said.
And what? Run him down?
My mother’s words came to me. Indecision is the worst affliction.
But I couldn’t decide. I couldn’t drive away; and him being in the way wasn’t the only reason. Nor could I offer him help out of fear that he may… well, do something horrible to me. I started searching for something on his face – I didn’t know what, truth be told – that could tell me he genuinely wanted help.
Indecision is the wor…
My pulse quickened. I started sweating. It didn’t occur to me to phone my husband. Maybe because I knew he’d express his disapproval of my choice of taking the side-road before going on to ask how I was. Or maybe it was because I couldn’t take my eyes away from the desperation I saw on the man’s face.
Indecision is the…
I unlocked the door, reminding myself it was just one of my daydreams. Though still largely unsure, I’d like to believe I was confident in the decision – in trusting the kind of strangers my mother had warned me against – I was taking.
I opened the door, carefully making my way out. And I saw his desperation… lifting. It changed to… I want to say it was relief, but – maybe it was the darkness or I really was slightly inebriated – I don’t think that would be right.
And you know what? It was the worst decision of my life.
Shaurya Arya-Kanojia authored his debut novella, End of the Rope (amzn.in/eZ0EUss), in 2019. He likes sports (cricket, mostly), eating out, and watching reruns of The Office and Everybody Loves Raymond. His social media handles include @shauryaticks (Twitter) and @main.hoon.ek.sharara (Instagram).