The following is a piece of writing. It's mostly true. True enough that calling it fiction would be disingenuous. I guess you could call it an essay of sorts. Only shorter.
Yesterday, in traffic, I was cut off by a stereotype. A silver haired woman in a gold Cadillac decided that my lane looked preferable and she was going there no matter who was already traveling in it. I hit the brakes and the horn at the same time and as my heart accelerated and then slowed, I began thinking about near-misses.
My driving record is hardly spotless, but it's not terrible either. In fact, if you are not a deer or a light pole, you probably have little to fear from my mama minivan. All the same, when I think about the dangers of cars, what I concentrate on with the highest intensity is the almost-wrecks. The times that through skill, or more likely dumb luck, I've managed to avoid a life-altering, if not life-ending catastrophe.
These, I think are my favorite stories. I start them, "Did I ever tell you about the time I nearly killed a cop?" Or "You know, I once almost went under a semi." What I love about these stories is that there is plenty of drama, fear, horror, and suspense. But in the end, you know and I know it's going to turn out fine. I know because I was there. You know because I'm not telling you the story from beyond the grave or prison.
These are the good near misses. The things that could have terribly, but instead went okay. The time I caught the kitchen on fire and nearly burned down the house. The time I accidentally overdrew my bank account by nearly $1,000 and almost lost everything. The time I almost lost Brynna in Kohl's. The time I almost forgot to get Maren from the babysitter. At the end of each of those days there was the delicious mixed emotion of truly knowing what you have to lose and how close you are every day to losing it.
There are bad near misses. The things that should have gone beautifully, but ended badly. The time I nearly I had a son. The time I nearly caught the door before it shut on Maren's hand. The time I almost got a really great job. The time I almost knew when to leave. These are not stories I like to tell. And the end of these days were filled with a deep-seeded regret.
But what the good and bad near misses share, and why they are vital to our lives, is that they are a peek into a different life. I'm sure you've all heard and read the theory that there are a million universes parallel to our own just like ours, but for one small change. Perhaps that's what we see. Every time we experience a near miss, we glimpse the world as it would have been, for better or worse, and then we are left to survive or thrive with what is.
If you believe, as I do, that everything happens for a reason and that every action helps to build the person you need to be for something down the line, then I suppose these near misses are checkpoints on the journey. "Ah," the voice in the sky seems to say, "Before we see what's behind your door, let's take a peek at what you are passing up." Sometimes the choice was yours, sometimes it wasn't. Sometimes it was wise, sometimes it wasn't.
What is inevitable is that this time won't be your last. You will stand on that stage again, casting your mind's eye into a future that cannot possibly exist. Because there will always be sharp right turns and the whiz of a bullet parting your hair.