Cracking open my heavy eyelids, I pulled my phone from under the pillow. 7:45 a.m. Should I get up at 8:00 a.m.? But it was Saturday; I could sleep more. How about until 9:00 a.m.? No, that wasn’t enough. 10:00 a.m.? A little too much.
I spent the entire morning in bed, trapped in this prison of choice. A little before noon, I decided it was too much, so I broke free.
But only momentarily.
I stepped into the kitchen. I fancied toast, but my toaster was broken. Eggs and bacon? Too British. Natto and rice? Too Japanese. Should I just have coffee? No, it wasn’t food.
In the end, I decided to skip breakfast. Or rather, I had no other choice.
Instead, I put on my hoodie, sweatpants, and sneakers. Then, after tying my hair into a high ponytail, I stepped out of my apartment and into Shinjuku Central Park.
I could choose three running paths. Left: Citizen’s Forest. No, I needed Vitamin D from the sun. Right: Water Plaza. I’d have to run in short circles, ending up nauseous like a pregnant woman. Front: It was the best option — except it’d branch off into four other paths. And I’d have to decide again.
In the end, I didn’t run. In fact, I did nothing for the rest of the day.
Now I was lying in bed, covering my eyes. This decision paralysis was becoming worse and worse.
Should I see a psychologist? They probably wouldn’t take me seriously. After all, I didn’t have a mental illness. How about I buy a self-help book? No, I didn’t want to read a whole book just to learn how to make basic decisions. Besides, I’d have to choose which to get.
I let out a long sigh. If only there were an app — wait, there was one for everything nowadays.
I fished out my phone, opened Google, and typed, Decision-making apps. The first result was Pick Wheel: you input the options, spun the wheel, and got a choice. Simple. But a lifesaver for me. I’d no longer have to make decisions. Be stuck. Suffer.
The next morning, I woke up at 7:50 a.m. Since it was Sunday, I could sleep in again. Today wouldn’t be like yesterday, though.
Still lying in bed, I tapped open Pick Wheel on my phone and input three options: 8:00 a.m., 9:00 a.m., and 10.00 a.m. Then I clicked Start. The wheel spun and spun, making me dizzy and antsy. The option that stopped on the pointer in the middle was … 9:00 a.m.
I set the alarm for that time, deciding sleeping one hour more wouldn’t be too much or too less. Feeling as if I’d gained a superpower.
After waking up, I stepped into the kitchen and used Pick Wheel again. Options: toast (or rather, sliced bread), green salad, eggs and bacon, natto and rice, and coffee. Choice: eggs and bacon. Good. A nice protein-rich breakfast.
Energized, I went to Shinjuku Central Park and spun the wheel. Options: left, right, and front. Choice: Front. Excellent. This way I’d run more, burn more calories.
And maybe I’d have more chances to …
While I was resting, a man sat on the bench next to mine. Jersey, joggers, sneakers. Crew cut, strong jawline, athletic build. He was looking at me — maybe because I was looking at him.
“Nice weather,” he said, squinting at the sunny sky.
I nodded, glancing around. “Nice surroundings too. We picked the right path — actually, I didn’t pick it.” I shouldn’t have mentioned that last part.
The man stared at me as if I’d accidentally sworn. Finally, he chuckled. “You believe in determinism?”
“That the events in the universe can only go in one direction. A direction that has been determined since the beginning — whatever that beginning is.”
I brought my finger to my chin. “I don’t think I believe in determinism.”
“So you believe in free will.”
“Let’s say I believe in randomness.”
The man laughed again. “So random.” He refocused on me. “But I like that.”
We continued chatting. And I continued enjoying it. Maybe because the man — who said his name was Abe — kept the conversation flowing like a river on a rainy day. So I didn’t have to come up with topics. Didn’t have to choose.
“Do you want to exchange contact info?” Abe held his phone in front of me.
I clutched mine in my pocket. Meeting Abe again would open a Pandora’s box of tough decisions: Who should suggest we start dating? Where should we live if we moved in together? What should I do if he cheated on me? When should we marry? How many children should we have?
But if I rejected his offer, I might never have this chance again.
What should I do?
Wait, I knew.
“Please give me a second.” I summoned Pick Wheel on my phone and input two options: Yes and No.
Abe blinked at me. “You’re playing a mobile game?”
“It’s more serious than it looks,” I said nonchalantly.
Abe rubbed the back of his head. “Okay, take your time.”
The result was … “Okay, let’s exchange contact info.”
After we said, “See you soon,” Abe trotted away, disappearing behind ginkgo trees.
This was the first time in a while I’d met someone new.
And he wouldn’t be the last person I’d meet today.
After I got a bottle of water from a vending machine, a man took my place. T-shirt, shorts, sneakers. Chin-length hair, round face, sporty body. He inserted two one-hundred-yen coins into the vending machine and squeezed his eyes shut. Then, as if he were in the dark — technically, he was — he fumbled with the vending machine until he managed to press a button. Finally, he opened his eyes and picked up a bottle of sports drink.
“What was that?” I blurted.
He turned to me. “This way I never know what I’ll get.”
“Like that line in the movie Forrest Gump.”
“The box-of-chocolates analogy? It’d make more sense if you closed your eyes when choosing a chocolate. If they’re visible, you’ll know which you’ll get.”
Standing next to the vending machine, we talked more about movies. The Butterfly Effect, Run Lola Run, Final Destination. I was having fun. So much so that I wanted to exchange contact info. Should I?
There was only one way to find out.
“Excuse me for a second.” I spun Pick Wheel again with the previous options. When it stopped, smiling, I asked, “Do you want to exchange contact info?”
“Sure,” he said, his lips mirroring mine. “My name is Banno.”
Are you free this weekend? read Abe’s text message.
Do you want to hang out this weekend? This was Banno’s.
I threw myself on the bed. I’d made a mistake. Or maybe it was Pick Wheel’s fault? Either way, I was the one who had to solve this conundrum.
How about I meet Abe on Saturday and Banno on Sunday? That was the most practical option. But what would happen if the relationship evolved with both of them? Then I’d have to handle two boyfriends. Text twice as much. Lead a double life.
I’d die of exhaustion.
That meant I had to decide between Abe and Banno. But I couldn’t. Abe was smart and smooth. Banno was quirky and lively. It was like choosing between an apple pie or a banana split. A1 Wagyu beef or bluefin tuna belly.
I gripped my phone, staring at Pick Wheel. It’d become my friend. No, my guru. And I was confident it’d lead me in the right direction again.
My heart racing, my back frozen, I input the options and spun the wheel. It was taking forever. A few eternities later, it finally slowed down. And stopped.
No way … but I had to accept Pick Wheel’s decision.
I typed a text message. I really enjoyed chatting with you, especially about determinism and free will. But I’ve decided to be alone in the meantime. I’m very sorry. And sent it to Abe.
Now I had to send a message to Banno. It was really fun talking to you, especially about the you-never-know-what-you’ll-get subject. But I don’t want anyone new in my life for now. I deeply apologize.
With a heavy sigh, I looked at the choice again.
Tears blurred my eyes. Actually, I’d have liked to keep seeing either — or both — of them. But it was okay. At least I had Pick Wheel. At least I wouldn’t have to make any decisions ever again.