Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The One Moment that Changed Everything

Do you have one?

When you think about it, you must have at least a few of them.... apart from the obvious (getting accepted to the college of your dreams, getting a new job, getting married, having a baby)... some moments, you can just look back on and think, "That moment changed absolutely EVERYTHING in my life." 

But it may be something simple. Like the alarm not going off.  Or having a knot in your shoelace. Those things alone may not mean much, but  even the smallest things can have the most enormous consequences.  What is a few minutes to a teen with a tyrannical first period teacher?  Or...to a person who worked at the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001? 

It is true for Nick Cross in TOUCHED. One moment in his life, one seemingly inconsequential decision, and everything begins to unravel.

And even worse, he knows exactly what would have happened had he made a different decision.

Because he can see the future . . .  sometimes. Not just one version of it, either... he can see glimpses of all of the versons, melded together, an incomprehensible mystery. And yet sometimes, too late, the pieces begin to make sense.

This is a little bit of Nick's story, TOUCHED, releasing this summer. I hope you enjoy it.

I clenched my teeth. "Green elephant. Green elephant. Green elephant."

I figured if anything could send her away, me muttering nonsensical phrases would be it. The phrase "green elephant" didn't mean anything to her, but I'd invented it when I was 9 or 10, and it meant everything to me.

"Do you want me to get you some water or something?"

Why did she have to be so damn nice? I pulled my head up and stared into her eyes, blue and endless, and

Blood on the staircase

I knew right then I was going to be sick. "Look." I tried to keep my voice even, but it came out as more of a growl. "I don't want anything from you, so just get the hell away from me."

I was surprised by two things. First, at how I could bring myself to sound like a total jerkwad, which is what I probably was. And second, at how she just nodded, as if it all made sense. She hurried up the ramp and jogged off, fastening the headphones over her ears as if we'd been chatting about the weather.

I sat alone for a moment, eyes closed, green-elephanting until the pain subsided and my mind slowed to a peaceful lull. A thousand new memories of the future bubbled under the surface of my eyes. On the bad side, there was something about blood on the staircase, and I had this strange ache in my chest. On the good side, there was kissing that girl. The rest I'd have to sort out later. I felt like I'd gone ten rounds of a heavyweight title match. I couldn't tell if it was because of the cycling or because the new memories would prove too horrifying to bear. I could change them. I could change the bad things, sometimes, by going off script.

You will climb up to the boardwalk and smile at Jocelyn. She will eye you up and down, and a couple of children and a man with a boogie board will step aside to let you pass.

Crazy Cross. That was what they called me at school, and as I felt the eyes of all the beachgoers on me, I knew it wouldn't be too long until they thought the same. As I climbed the ramp, quickly, trying my best to ignore the stares, that same sinking feeling resurfaced. For three months, I'd shed it, but now, it wrapped around me, heavy, like a winter coat.

You will bury your feet in the sand and hurry down the beach.

I groaned and stepped off the boardwalk, sinking ankle-deep into the hot sand.

You will hear the radio crackle with "Ambulance, Seventh Avenue." You will see the crowd gathered at the waterline. Chaos. Shouts. Pedro will narrow his eyes at you when you break through, and scream, "Where the hell were you?"

They will tell you there's no hope of saving the girl in the pink bikini. And you will know it is because of you. 

I have three moments in my life (other than the obvious) that changed my life completely. In my next blog entry (whenever that might be!), I'll tell you them!  And if you have any, I would love to hear them.