June 13, 2021
They walked, head down counting paving stones which is harder than counting steps which is how they generally get through the day. One, two, three, four, five...two hundred twenty-six, and eleven hundred is half a mile. Uneven paving stones aren't quite as satisfying except when it's a useful piece of information. They missed the fact of the fork until there were more than one stone on the path. They stopped and looked up. The path split off to the left and right at 45 degree angles, vanishing over two separate horizons. There wasn't anything to distinguish the two paths other than this left right business.
They don't like left right choices without significant information. They'd been told this was a random or 'blind' choice and you might just as well roll the dice, in which case, why bother? Regardless of the words, it always meant, 'because you have to' and this induced panic. It wasn't because they thought they might make the wrong choice, and it wasn't about what might have been if they'd made the other choice, it just felt unbalanced and wrong. The sunset over the horizon was beautiful and in the morning they turned back and watched the sun, like an upside down watercolor. Back was easy, wasn't it? Follow the one path back to the parking lot, get in the car, and drive home. Pretend nothing happened and most of all, pretend they hadn't spent the entire night staring at an impossible choice.
Maybe I can go one way to the horizon and turn around and do the same with the other side, they thought. That way I will have played the game but not made a definitive choice. Robert Frost Robert Frost Robert Frost Fuck Robert Frost. Maybe that less worn path in the forest was less worn for a reason. That was a useful piece of information which they did not have. Each path appeared equally worn and the grass grew up through the stones exactly the same way. That was not useful information.
Fuck it. They stepped onto the grass, which was clearly forbidden. The signs were everywhere, in the parking lot and every fifteen or twenty feet for the first eleven hundred steps. Without a glance in any direction but forward, they marched across the grass neatly bisecting what turned out to be a very large circle. At the intersection of grass and path they faced the same choice, left or right. Or, turn back and cross the grass to the fork. They stood looking outward for a long time and were also fairly certain that exiting the circle entirely would have extreme consequences. They didn't like extreme consequences in any format and thinking about it brought on a mild anxiety attack. It's a choice, again, they thought. It's another choice and it's pretty clear. I can turn back now, walk one side or the other, makes no damn difference, or I can step over this paving stone and run for the tree line.
In the forest there are no public bathrooms, no choice between the skirt or pants icon, no screaming mothers or leering men. In the forest the consequences mostly make sense. In the forest you might be completely alone and defenseless which is already a well-known fact.