I watched her take that last step of indecision into the space in time that is the most paralyzing. The place where she was perfectly balanced between the person she’d been and the mystery of who she would become. She’d changed enough on her journey that stepping back into the old life would drive her to insanity, but not enough to step forward the six inches that would put her in a world she wouldn’t recognize.
The expressions on her face were fascinating to see as they changed from sorrow, to anger, then terror and at last a fierce joy. I was certain she would take the step then, but still she remained frozen. I wondered how many times I would see this cycle before she made her choice. It disturbed me to not know the answer to that, to not be certain.
I saw friends and family around her, some urging her forward, others calling her back to them. There were one or two on the other side waiting patiently for her to decide between the certain and the unknown. They said very little, seeming to understand that she had become deaf to all but the whispering of everything inside her that mattered.
I decided to sit with the quiet ones at The Point of No Return, to see her face if she actually took that last step. For some reason, it was critical to me that I see her face in that moment. I wondered what I would write about her when all was said and done. Would it be a mysterious adventure or a tragedy that would cause me to weep long after I quit writing?
The general consensus among crowd on the far side was that she had lost her mind, possibly a breakdown that could be treated with drugs or therapy. Maybe she was sick in some way and hadn’t told anyone, or maybe she was just a fool. All they could see was that she would be leaving comfort and social acceptance. Some just thought her selfish to destroy so much for some flighty need to feed the fire in her that was barely flickering.
I could almost see the same questions running through her mind as she stood there, her eyes not blinking as she stared out at something only she could see. Regret, indecision and guilt warred with a ferocity of purpose that made me look over my shoulder to see what she saw ahead of her. There was nothing I could see, but I knew she saw it clearly, whatever it was.
I know now in retrospect that she was staring at her Second Chance. The last and final opportunity to leave behind all that was dead and meaningless, including those who had regarded her, and all she longed for as meaningless. I understand now, the desperation that she felt to have come that far and been so close and not know if she had the courage to move even one step more.
At the time, I didn’t know these things. All I saw was a woman frozen between two worlds, afraid to make a decision. I saw someone lost, angry, rebellious and afraid. She was a wild card to me at that moment. I had no idea what she would do next, and I was caught up in the moment. I wanted to jump up and shout something that would make her take the step.
Whatever she decided was going to affect all of us in a big way. I knew that for sure. I think maybe that’s what held her frozen at that point. Knowing clearly all the lives that would change if she changed hers. Wondering if she were strong enough, smart enough or brave enough to begin again.
When she closed her eyes and lowered her head, my heart began to pound in a mixture of dread and anticipation. I found myself whispering for her to please take the step, please don’t look back, please. I watched her bowed head and sent her every bit of strength I could find whether it mattered or not. We all leaned forward sensing that she was about to make her move one way or the other. There was a lead ball in my gut, and my breathing matched the pounding of my heart as we waited.
All of us froze as she lifted her head and tears filled her eyes as she turned to look at the life behind her. Then, without a word, she spun around and took the last step, not looking back or flinching at the roar of the bridges burning behind her. There was no going back.
I will never forget the look on her face when she smiled at me.