The Seventeenth Time She Watched ‘Sliding Doors’ by Emma Robertson

The first time was a revelation for Sara, a relief to find a reference point for the unnamed fear she carried within herself: ‘the Sliding Doors moment’. Life was a constant choice between options that could shape her destiny; how on earth could she be expected to make decisions of such magnitude?

‘That was great,’ her date said as they shuffled out of the cinema. ‘Shall we go for a drink?’

‘Um.’ Sara froze.

And so it began.

Life became more complex. Hesitating on the precipice of a potentially life-changing decision such as whether to take the train or the bus into work – what if the bus crashed? What if the train crashed? What if the future love of her life took the bus and she chose the train and missed meeting him? – she’d always imagine the trailer of the movie of her life:

This year, the voiceover would boom over a cute montage of her strutting down the street, Sara Shaw faces a decision between two modes of transport.

And, once she’d finally made her choice, as she stepped onto the bus, or the train, the picture would freeze, and the ominous voice would return: It was a decision she would regret for the rest of her life.

As time went on, it became a real problem: ‘You choose,’ she would say when dates asked where she wanted to dine, or which show she would like to see, or friends asked where they should go on holiday. That way it wouldn’t be her responsibility if they were stricken by food poisoning, if the ceiling of the theatre came down on their heads, or the plane crashed.

She settled for the job that came with the office she could walk to, rather than the one with brilliant prospects. Relationships came and went; she always left it up to them to decide whether she liked them or not. ‘What’s meant for you won’t go by you,’ Sara often said, if her mum expressed concern. ‘That’s what you always say.’

‘Well, yes…but, at some point, you have to actually choose to do something. Take charge of your life’, Sara’s mum would reply, her expression ever hopeful. ‘You know, perhaps choose to move out? Get your own place? Hmm?’

The seventeenth time she watched Sliding Doors was with her best friend Dee.

‘You’ll love it.’ Sara pressed play. ‘It changed my life.’

‘For the better?’ Dee raised a doubting eyebrow.

Just as they watched Gwyneth Paltrow run down the stairs to the tube platform, there was a hammering on the front door.

‘Answer it!’ said Dee, as Sara hesitated.

‘Open up, please. The flat upstairs has flooded, and you’ll need to evacuate.’

Sara glanced from the screen to the front door.

‘Oh, for goodness’ sake!’ Dee jumped up.

And that is how, on the seventeenth – and final – time she watched Sliding Doors, Sara came to be drenched in dirty water while her best friend fell in love with a gorgeous fireman.

Emma Robertson is a dance tutor and writer from London, UK. Recently longlisted for the Bath Flash Fiction Award, she is also published in Ellipsis Zine, Lunate and The Drabble along with a number of anthologies.
Twitter @emmadancetrain