There comes a time in our lives when we’re all faced with choices. The proverbial fork in the road, two roads diverged in a yellow wood and all that. The question comes when we have to decide, do we take the road less travelled or do we simply do the right thing? Wether that be the right thing for ourselves or for the immediate world around us. I used to be with someone who would always, no matter what I was feeling, respond “just do the right thing”. I never truly understood what he meant by that, until now. I would often wonder, why can’t ‘what’s right’ be handed to me? Why should I have to figure that out for myself? But sometimes “the right thing” isn’t a simple answer, sometimes it’s already there and you just need to be brave enough to realise it.
For example, many take New Year’s Eve with a great seriousness, and so it should be. The minute the clock strikes twelve you have an entirely new 365 days to ignore your resolutions and another 365 opportunities to do the right thing. I, like many,spent my New Years with friends in a public space where the new year could be ushered in with loud music and copious amounts of alcohol, this is not the issue.
This particular night I was invited to a New Years event by my friend, Lilly, who had arranged a night in some night club downtown with her boyfriend and another couple and I was the fifth wheel. This didn’t bother me as anyone who knows me knows that I don’t find it difficult to speak to people nor do I find it hard to make friends. So the night draws in around seven in the evening and as I made my way to Lilly’s’ flat, vodka in hand, I prepared myself for what I thought would be a straight forward evening of laughs and drinks. I stepped off of the bus and made my way up the stairs of the dimly lit tower block in southwest London, being conscious of the neighbours, she greeted me with a hug and a kiss as friends would and we went inside to begin preparing ourselves for the night ahead. She poured me a drink and as the red cup began to fill up there was a knock at the door and she immediately went to answer it.
Let me preface this by saying Lilly is the sort of person who’s company alone would make you smile, to this day I’m not sure how she does it. There’s a light behind her eyes, a never ending positivity that’s like that of a child’s however her sense of humour matched that of someone who’s lived many lives. She always seemed sure of herself, sure of the people around her and even if it might have been an act, it was pulled off perfectly. So you can imagine my surprise when I met him.
When she came back, as expected I stood up and introduced myself to her boyfriend, shaking his hand, making small talk and instantly sitting back down. His name was Joe and I somehow found it difficult to talk to him. He was fairly tall, had a masculine build but looked like a miniaturised wolverine. I mentioned this as a joke and we all laughed. When the night had drawn on and we finally left the club, I couldn’t shake an uneasy feeling that something was wrong; wether it was the way he spoke or the way we couldn’t speak I was unsure.
As I would make self depreciating joke after joke (roping Lilly and our other friends into it) I would catch his eyes, staring at me. Like I had offended him personally but oddly enough it had nothing to do with him. The clock struck 9.00pm and we made the decision to travel on to the bar in Soho, after popping a bottle of presecco needless to say we were all fairly excited. As we stepped onto the street to catch a train I lit a cigarette and continued to walk; again I caught his gaze. As Lilly and I stood on the street whilst the others went inside to get tickets she turned to me “Joe hates smoking” we laughed it off. Each to their own, I thought as I took a drag and stubbed it out.
As the night drew on, everything was fairly normal, we danced and laughed and drank a reasonable amount. It was a night that was just for us, we were starting the year on a high. There was one moment that changed things for me. Joe and I were on the dance floor and Lilly had gone to the bathroom with our other friend. Her boyfriend shuffled towards me and I asked if he’d like another drink, he took me up on my offer and ordered his girlfriend one as well. However, when I turned to Joe to ask if he or Lilly wanted another, he snapped “no thank you, she’s had enough” and I stared silent for a moment.
I shook this off and just assumed he was just ‘that guy’. Moments later he started asking where Lilly was, complaining that she’d been in the bathroom for too long. Like a dog with a bone he wouldn’t let it go he just kept persisting that he was worried about her. The truth is, she’d been less than 10 minutes and I couldn’t bare the thought of someone like Lilly being under the thumb of this one person, especially on New Year’s Eve.
At that point I started thinking about ‘the right thing’, normally I’d sit by and not say anything, perhaps allow him to continue to speak the way he did. I turned to him, softly explaining that (and I quote) “she’s a grown woman, she’s gone to the bathroom she’ll be back soon, chill out” I smiled. I remember turning away and dancing to myself.
When she came back we continued as nothing had happened, he hadn’t let her out of his sight all night and every time he spoke to her I saw that light behind her eyes dull down. She would stop dancing or singing and even stop smiling with just one word from him. It was heartbreaking to see someone that I revered as being a positive influence to me personally be held down so easily. At that point I found a way to get us alone, this wasn’t easy as you can imagine, but it was necessary. We stood outside in the smoking area and before I could make my point he made it for me by texting her four times in less than five minutes.
At that point the right thing presented itself to me, I knew that I had to say something, explain what I saw regardless of the outcome to our own relationship. I have no doubt that she loved Joe and I was prepared for her to tell me to piss off and that I don’t know anything but after I said it, she saw it. The right thing was right for both of us, for me to say and for her to hear.
My point is, doing the right thing may not always be obvious at first. The right thing for Lilly since then was to break it off with Joe and move back home. She’s since started seeing someone who, from what I hear, values her happiness more than his own and I couldn’t have wanted it to end better. You’re always going to be faced with choices, if I hadn’t said anything that night she might still be in an emotionally abusive relationship but I made the choice to do what I felt was the right thing. It’s very easy to sit and say ‘nothing will change so it doesn’t matter what I do’ but until you make the change you’ll never know the outcome.
Help the pensioner across the street, hold the bus for someone that’s running late and let someone with only one item jump ahead you at the grocery store. Check in on your mother once you’ve moved out, tell your friends your honest opinions because even if it hurts them you should have their best interests at heart and it shouldn’t matter. Give yourself time, don’t rush into things because ‘the right thing’ won’t come to you over night. Making the right choice is hard and it’s everyday but it’s worth it to just be more honest with yourself and everyone around you.
What have you got to lose?