Original Prompt: “At the age of twelve you started randomly seeing a green line and a red line appear on the ground. You always followed the green line and have lived a successful and happy life. Ten years later you are on top of the world, but bored. Time to see where the red line leads.”
I sat there at the bus stop, soaking wet with tears streaming down my face. My clothes were dirty and torn. My body ached. I had followed the red line and it brought me nothing but pain. I got coffee spilled on me, I slipped on a wet floor, I got my bag stolen at the subway station, and then I went home and found my husband and my best friend sleeping together. The red line had brought me to this bus station in the middle of the rain and now I was here. Just here staring at this man talking about invsiable lines.
“What…what did you say?” I asked the man.
“I…I said that I see lines. Blue and orange. Usually I follow the orange line. But after years of following it, I chose the blue line today,” He said meeting my eyes. “And honestly today has been horrible. But now I look down at my feet and the blue line points towards you and only you. Does any of that make sense?”
I looked down at my feet. The green line was frantically moving. It lead me out of the bus stop and down one street than another street. It was almost like a GPS buffering, unable to figure out what was going on. The green line just wanted me to be anywhere but here. But the red line. The red line was steady. It pointed straight at the man.
“Yes, that makes a lot of sense,” I said.
The mans’ expression changed from nervousness to relief.
“You can see them too,” He said.
“Not exactly,” I explained. “When I look down at my feet, I see two imaginary lines. No one else can see them. But for me they are as clear as day. There’s a green line and a red line. Green lead me to a best friend, a husband, an education, and a wonderful job. But I followed red today and it ruined my life.”
“What do you mean?”
“I left work early without an explanation, so I’m probably fired. Then I got robbed on the way home on the subway. Then I got home and I found my best friend having sex with my husband. I’m going to get divorced. I have no friends. I’m not going to have a job. I have nothing,” I said.
As I talked the tears started once again and I buried my face into my hands.
“Why did I follow that stupid, red line?” I asked out loud.
“Were you happy at your job?”
I looked up.
“I mean did you enjoy your job? Did you like it?” He asked.
“Well…well I made a ton of money. I worked for a huge tech company. I was on the path to be CEO someday.”
“But did you like it?” He asked again.
“Honestly, I found it pretty boring. It wasn’t very challenging. It’s almost like I owed all my success to luck and the green line holding my hand along the way.”
“And it’s not like your husband’s cheating only happened today, right?” The man asked.
I was at a loss for words. On one hand I was angry because this guy was talking so candidly about the situation, but on the other hand he was correct. Throughout all the arguing and yelling, it didn’t seem like this was a one time thing. My husband and my best friend had been sleeping together for awhile. I was just too busy at work to notice it. I was such an idiot.
“I…I guess so,” I finally said.
“Then maybe the red line didn’t cause a bad day. It just let you see what was really happening. The green line was keeping you content and happy, but it wasn’t the truth. It was sheltering you from the truth,” He said.
“How do you know so much about these lines anyway?” I asked.
“I don’t. I didn’t even know anyone else could see their own lines. But as I say these things and think about my own situation, it kind of makes sense. The orange line in my life lead me down a path of happy ignorance, but it’s not like the world was all sunshine and rainbows. The blue line just showed me the truth today.”
“What happened to you when you followed the blue line?” I asked.
He let out a sigh.
“It lead me to a doctor’s office. The same doctor’s office where I usually go. But as I entered, I saw my father. Turns out he’s been dealing with a terminal illness for awhile and I didn’t know it. I didn’t even think to ask. Then I got into a huge fight with my dad in the middle of the doctor’s office. I was mad that he didn’t tell me and he yelled at me for not being involved in his life. The orange line kept me away from my family. Away from this pain. But really I only have myself to blame. I chose the orange line. Again and again.”
He grew silent and looked down at his feet.
This lead to a moment of silence that I used to compose myself.
“So what do we do now?” I asked out loud.
He looked over at me and then back at the ground.
“I don’t know,” He said.
“Maybe I just go back to following the green line and you go back to following the orange line. Maybe our lives will get better,” I said.
“That is one option, but the other line will always be there, right? It’s not something that we can ignore.”
“Yeah I guess you’re right. Then maybe we follow the new lines. I’ll follow red and you’ll follow blue.”
“I don’t know about you, but I think I need a balance. Maybe I’ll follow one and then the other.”
“What are you going to do, flip a coin. Heads one color, tails the other?”
“No, I think I just need to find the right balance between the two,” He said. “I think that I always looked at the orange line as good and the blue line as bad, but it doesn’t work like that. Orange just tried to keep me happy no matter the consequences and blue was there to show me everything else I was missing, no matter if it was good or bad.”
“Yeah I guess that makes sense,” I said. “If any of this can make sense.”
“Yeah it is really confusing,” He nodded. “What are you going to do?”
I looked down at my lines. Green was pointing left and red was pointing right.
“I’m going to get divorced. Find a new job. Get a new place to live. Rebuild my life,” I said.
“And what about the lines?” He asked.
“Maybe you’re balance idea will work,” I said. “It’s worth a try.”
“Yeah I think so too,” He said.
I stood up and took a deep breath. Even though my heart still hurt and my body was still sore, it felt like some weight was lifted off my shoulders.
The green line and red line still pointed in opposite directions both vying for my attention.
“Ummm…before you go,” The man stood up behind me. “Can I ask you, your name?”
I turned to him and gave a weak smile.
“Claire,” I said.
“Henry,” He said.
“Good luck, Henry,” I said. “I hope you can repair things with your father.”
“Thank you, Claire. Good luck to you too,” He replied. “I hope you can find your passion and rebuild your life.”
He opened his umbrella and stepped out into the rain. I watched him leave, never looking back. He turned right and disappeared from view. I wondered if he was following the orange line or the blue line.
Then I looked down at my feet. Green. Red. Green. Red.
I took a deep breath and then stepped out into the rain.
“I’m going to trust you,” I said out loud.
Then I turned right and walked forward following the red line.
Header Photo Credit to Renatures.com
Writing Prompt submitted to r/WritingPrompts by u/ElPresidentCamacho