Emma's Dilemma

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“Emma, get back here! Emma! Come back this instant!” Ignoring her father’s calls, Emma stormed past her friend, Noah, and into the woods behind her house, while he raced to catch up. Between breaths, Noah called out, “Where are we going?” She curtly replied, “Anywhere but here,” and she continued to walk deeper into the woods. They walked for what seemed like hours, until they came to a modest clearing. She plopped down onto the grass and let out a long sigh, her breath visible in the brisk night air. He laid down next to her and they sat in silence, staring at the stars.

Finally, she broke the silence. “God, I hate him,” she whispered.

“No, you don’t. You get irritated with him sometimes, but you still love him.”

Breaking her gaze from the night sky, she turned to look at him and said, “No, I actually hate him. He’s distant and stubborn and he thinks everything is one way or the other. I’ve tried to explain to him that it’s not that simple, but he just roars, ‘There are only two possibilities Emma: yes or no, right or wrong, good or bad. Pick one! You can’t stay indecisive forever. You need a plan, something stable and reasonable.’ But everything’s not all black and white, as he likes to think. There’s so much more to life than that.”

Noah thought for a moment, unsure of just how to respond.

Emma sat there, quietly debating her feelings in her head and wondering what he would have said. Sure, there’s more to life than that, but can’t everything be reduced to a yes or no? Should I do this, or should I do that? Is it this, or is it that? Could it all really be that simple?

“Yeah, you could think of it that way, but you’d just be oversimplifying how complex the world is. There are gray areas, parts of life where there is more than one answer, like how interpretations of art can all be correct because there is no wrong answer.”

Couldn’t you also say that people either have an interpretation or not? Then the answer would be either yes, they feel that way about the piece, or no, they don’t. Is that really an oversimplification or just a different way of looking at the situation?

“I guess that would be a different way of looking at it, but that doesn’t mean that my father is right. Doesn’t saying that something is or isn’t one way take some of the meaning away from the thing? Doesn’t it remove the feeling from it, making it just a word and nothing more?

“If something is alive, then it’s not dead, but it’s so much more than simply not being dead. It’s living and breathing and experiencing the world. If you said only that it’s alive and not dead, you take away from what it means to be alive. He takes the meaning from the world and uses this meaninglessness to justify his standoffish attitude.” She glanced down at the grave beside her, wishing that things would be different, both for her father and for her friend.

Emma shifted her gaze back to the stars...

∞∞

...painted on her ceiling and continued to dream of how things could be different. She thought of something a friend once told her, about different worlds and possibilities. “Maybe things are different in another universe. Maybe a version of me is somewhere else right now, or maybe a version of me is with someone. Maybe there’s a version where my father isn’t so apathetic that he drives everyone, even his own daughter, away.”

Maybe there is a version like that, but you don’t live in that universe. You can’t travel to a different reality that may not even exist.

“I know I can’t go running off, but I desperately wish I could. I just can’t stand how angry he can be, how much he unfairly criticizes me.”

As bad as your father can be, you have to learn to live with him. You live in this universe, where your father is the way he is, and you have to deal with this problem.

Emma looked around her bedroom walls at her artwork and her photographs and could practically hear her father’s words of criticism. The thought made her almost wince in pain and her anger towards him intensified.

It’s not his fault, you know. He just wants the best for you and, while he may not go about it in the right way, he is just trying to get you to think a little more and see the world his way. To him, that’s how the world is.

∞∞∞

“Do you understand what I’m trying to say?” Naomi said, “I know it’s probably not what you want to hear, but you can’t stay out in this field all night.” They sat in silence for a little bit, the gears turning in Emma’s head.

“It’s absurd that I should be expected to change my world view to match his. Asking me to change to suit his needs and fit into his idea of perfect is asking me to change for someone who would never do the same for me.”

“I’m sure he-”

“He’s my father, not my friend. I don’t need his approval and he doesn’t care anyway, so why should I change?” She was screaming now, unable to contain her rage. After seeing the hurt look on her friend’s face, she took a deep breath and tried to calm down. “I’m sorry Naomi. I know you’re trying to help, but there’s no way to solve this problem in a day. Thanks for keeping me company. I don’t really want to go home, so is it ok if I stay at your house?”

“Sure thing, Emma.”

The two girls got up from the ground and walked over to Naomi’s house, exhausted from the night’s events.

∞∞∞∞

They all hoped the next day would be better than this one.

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