In fiction writing, they call it the "change bomb." It's when the story is ignited and the character is thrown into peril. It makes for great reading.
My own change bomb happened late at night, early in the morning if you prefer, in 1987. I don't remember it and I hope I never do, but I know what happened. The police report described it in detail.
A drunk driver running a stop sign was the change bomb that altered how I would view the world for the rest of my life. The rest of my life was a gift not everyone involved in that wreck was given.
I woke up wondering what in the world I was doing in a hospital, and my parents asking me if I remembered what happened. Truth be told, I didn't know what they were talking about, but I remembered I had been out with my best friend. We must have been in some kind of fender bender, I reasoned through the fog in my scrambled brain.
Not exactly. On our way home from the usual weekend night of dancing -- clubbing is the term later given to it -- a drunk driver ran a stop sign, slammed our car into tomorrow, and bashed my brain in the process.
I wasn't even in my local hospital. Immediate access to a neurosurgeon was tantamount and I was shipped to a different county where the surgeon did the unthinkable by today's standards and began the decompressive craniotomy with a verbal okay over the telephone after he explained the seriousness of the situation to my parents.
I lied in a coma for 36 hours absorbing my change bomb and I woke up not remembering any of it. I had souvenirs though that would never let me forget it happened: Staples holding the horseshoe-shaped flap of scalp in place, a cast from my hand to my elbow, my favorite gray jeans stained with blood, and a lock of my hair in a plastic baggie.
Change bomb. As if a change bomb weren't enough to endure in and of itself, there would be judgments and prejudice to follow. I can only imagine what it was like after the victims of the priest predators wound up being under a gag order. Bearing their souls to the parish they trusted and being told, "Shhhhh."
There were probably some who didn't shhhh. There always is. So those victims spent the rest of their lives attached to shame. Each time they went back to church, assuming they did, walking down the aisle between pews of hundreds of watchful eyes, their hands folded like nothing was wrong, waiting their turn to receive Holy Communion from -- the enemy? As God was their witness above them, hanging crucified on a wooden cross, the holy wafer melting in their mouths on the long walk back to their seats.
Did they constantly wonder who knew? Could they tell by the side looks and secret whispers? How intensely did their shame amplify with the current public revelations?
I've taken that walk of shame. It was right into a Carvel ice cream store.
I had been wearing a fuchsia colored beret to cover my war wounds since the wreck, but that morning, I was sick of it. I was going to get back in the driver seat and take my scarred and bruised noggin wherever I damn well pleased.
It wasn't so bad behind the armor of my vehicle when only an observant person who happened to be stopped next to me at the same red light would notice my Frankensteinness. Trepidation and anxiety creeped their way inside my tragic head, past the gawking, coasting with me into the parking space just outside the store. I shifted it into park, slid the key out of the ignition, and opened the door.
If at the end of my life I am shown the greatest moments of my life, the moment I exited my car will be one of them. I wasn't at home with nurturing family or friends and I couldn't hide behind my fuchsia beret. I was on my own and felt it.
There were two elderly ladies sitting on a bench outside the store. Thank God because if they had been teenagers, I would surely have had to endure ridicule. I held my head higher with each step like I was sporting a trophy on top of my shoulders, and I was prepared to make conversation with the women if they liked. They didn't.
"Oh, look at that!" Granny #1 said in disgust to her cohort.
"That looks awful!" Granny #2 concurred, scowling at the wreckage on my head, which must have been an intentional tattoo in her eyes.
Shit. This was going to suck. I was too astonished, too hurt, to retaliate, but I couldn't possibly stop this bold partaking on their account. I had to keep moving, had to get in that store, get my damn ice cream cone, and get back to the security of my car as fast as possible.
Just as the old ladies had surprised me with their assumptive conversation, the young employee who would scoop out my ice cream beat that.
"Car accident?" he asked. I was suddenly Allison Reynolds in "The Breakfast Club" right before she bore her soul to Andrew the jock. "Yeeeaaaahhhhh... "
"My buddy looked like that after his accident, so I figured that's what happened to you." His cheery disposition carried me through my purchase and I left the store licking my 2 scoops, my back to the mean old ladies, empowered to be another normal person on the planet again.
Be kind to people because you never know what they're going through. It can't be said enough.
These are my thoughts as I shut down my computer, the testimony over. The wounds of the victims have been reopened and they are in the healing process.
I happen to believe the theory that we came to Earth deliberately, knowing how hard it would be. And it is freaking hard sometimes. But we're here to let our light shine, if not for ourselves, then for those who need to see it. We keep on living change bomb after change bomb, one scoop at a time.