Tunnel to Creativity – Brandon Sisson
Rachel Mason

Overthinking is a delicate, dying artform. Mastery of the arts has become less common in this age of technology. Industrialization and progress be damned; we must revert back to the old days, the better days. The days when no one knew their opinions or desires. Stuck in the darkness, before Edison came along and brought light. No overwhelming department stores, option-filled restaurants, and unlimited Netflix shows for binge-watching existed. Those were the glory days. Today, people want options; choosing makes them feel in control. Oh, how the once mighty have fallen. Control and decision are for the weak. Fear not, my reader. I am here to enlighten you, so you don’t end up like those other 21st-century chumps. I shall take you back to the days of gallant war orders from ranking officers and knightly honor; the glory days where only fate could make the decisions.

Transport yourself to a nice little Italian bistro on the river, or maybe a beach, or wherever. Trees draped with Spanish moss –American tree moss if you prefer– seclude the bistro from the busy street, and the sun peeks through the greenery (of whatever name), dancing across the customers outside. You sit at an eloquent, glass-topped table for two under a tree; indoors was full, thankfully. Look across the table and towards the river/beach/ocean thing. Do you see the young man? He struggles… internally. The battle has begun. He just ordered his dinner when the waiter came, the first time. Everyone knows you reserve the first time slot for greetings. You sneak a glance at the menu and mentally prepare yourself for the impending doom of the battlefield ahead. Don’t let their question “Can I get you started off with some drinks tonight?” throw you off your game. This is your moment. Simply look them in their eyes –establish your dominance in a friendly, soft, not too dominant way– and tell them you need a minute, or maybe an hour. They will laugh at your ‘joke.’ Joke haha, if only they knew the massacre ahead.  

When they return –oh and they will return– barely acknowledge their presence. This gives you extra precious seconds for consulting the troops for a strategy, a response. Feel your heart rate rising, the sweat beads forming along your brow, and the shakiness setting into your hands. The adrenaline rush is exhilarating. Wait until they ask, “Do you know what you want to drink?” 

Do I know? Silly question. No, I do not know. At this point, you must meet their gaze, but DO NOT allow the eye contact to sway your non-decision position into a decision. You should not appear too eager; hide your flustered look and compose yourself. For the love of God, compose yourself. You are unflappable. Instead of replying, spend time pondering: water, Coke, tea, Dr. Pepper, Fanta, Sprite, Root Beer, or lemonade. Chocolate milk, perhaps. Let the thoughts swirl in your brain, enveloping you in their barbed-wired embrace. Water sounds good, but tea would be refreshing. No, then I must choose between sweet tea and regular, or they might even mistake it for hot tea. Oooo, do I want a hot drink? Water, yes, water. Or maybe not. This will test the waiter’s patience; see if they display moxie worthy of a handsome tip. When you feel yourself leaning towards a decision, spit it out like old, chunky milk–sour and squishy– before you have time to regret your decision.  

Relief floods over you, but it is short-lived. The waiter replies with a most unpleasant smirk, reveling in the pain and torture they caused. “Alright, I will grab you those drinks and be back for your order shortly.” 

The audacity. The waiter wants your failure, your decision. Do not, I repeat, do not give it to them. Do not listen to the O’Jays and “Give the People What They Want.” Go into your head and find a happy place. Well, only if thoughts and doubts do not already plague the warm sunny beach, creating a dark, D-Day like abyss. Your mind becomes turbulent, unruly waves swallowing your comrades, and you —the last hope— feel the current gently pull you away. It would be easier to let go. Nevermind, scratch that. Do not go into your head. The surrounding voices of your fellow comrades, restaurant go-ers, pound in your ears and bring you out of your daze, back onto the battlefield. The words on the menu blur into hieroglyphics. Is that a sweet hibiscus salad or pesto glazed salmon? The delirium should set in right about now, a sign that the war’s progress is on course for victory: a blood-bath of a victory. 

The waiter returns, keeping their diabolical promise. Breathe; let the spinning inside your head become your guide. The spins say you must ask the waiter for their opinion. “What do you recommend?” 

The waiter smiles, a look of pure evil, Satanic even, “What are you deciding between?” 

They want the question to confuse you: impossible. You randomly glance at the top option of the pasta section and the middle item in the entree section. “The squid ink pasta with shrimp and the chicken parmesan.” 

They pause, taken aback by your poise and skill. Checkmate. They feel the enemy forces closing in on their ranks. They are down by seven points with three seconds on the clock. They do not know which letter comes after the first “e” in supercalifragilisticexpialidocious during the spelling bee. Your cavalry sees the weakness and prepares for their storm of the castle. You wield power in your hands; ready the flag for planting in enemy soil. 

“Personally, I believe the squid ink pasta is delectable.”

They used delectable as an adjective for pasta, a sign of panic, a sign of surrender. “Sounds perfect; thank you for your help,” you reply. You maintain perfect composure, a picture of grace and beauty. Now, this next part is very important: keep eye contact. Stare them down. Burn holes in their soul. Looking away is a fatal mistake, one you cannot afford in the final moments before victory. The Trojans believed they won and let their guard down. Look at what happened to them. 

“Alright, I will place your order, and it should be out shortly.” 

“We Are the Champions” slowly begins playing in the background. Balloons of vibrant colors gracefully glide to the ground, and confetti bursts out of the unnamed moss hanging in the trees. Everyone around you rises from their wicker chairs and applauds wildly. The paparazzi arrive out of nowhere, cameras flashing. Are you shocked? No, victory was inevitable with your trusty mentor —me— and hours of training. Accept the praise and remain humble; the purple heart never goes to an arrogant officer. Wave and acknowledge the fans, then return to your seat and wait patiently for your victory meal.

Squid ink pasta never tasted so good. 

During the meal, you relax. Let go of the tension in your shoulders and neck. Enjoy the food. As you near the end of the dinner, you look up, and your heart drops. Here they come, running at you like a calvary of 10,000 men with bayonets prepared for slaughter. “Would you like some dessert this evening?” 

You dropped your guard, entirely unprepared for the enemy’s counterattack. What do you do when surrounded? Run. Get up, throw cash at the waiter –including their tip of 30% because you’re not the monster, they are–, and sprint out of the lovely, quaint bistro. Surrender is not an option. Don’t stop until your knees buckle from exhaustion and cannot carry you one step farther, or you feel the bile rising in your throat. You achieved another successful evening out.