He didn’t look all that different from everyone else, none of the teachers singled him out, he didn’t belong to any of the cliques, in fact, the biggest difference between him and everyone else is that he didn’t really stick out in any way at all. He had light brown hair and dark blue eyes, his face was kind looking but not exceptionally special. I hardly even noticed him before that day, but when he approached me, he didn’t register as a stranger. Perhaps he should have, but he had been at school every day, which is more than most could say for themselves.
“There goes your chance.” He was standing in front of me at my locker, his hands hung to the ground and there was nothing ominous about his voice, but it sent chills down my spine.
“Yes, your life just completely changed.”
I scratched my head, for the price of my soul I couldn’t remember the boy’s name or grasp an idea of what on earth he could be talking about. “I don’t understand.” I shifted my books from one hand to the other and looked at him, if his face were a book, all the pages were blank.
“You remembered your science notebook.”
I nodded looking down at it, how could he have known I almost got to class early without it? I almost dared to ask him, but the idea sounded silly so I just looked back up at him and waited for him to speak again. If he didn’t utter another word, I’d slip back off to class. After a few moments of awkward staring, I did just that.
I don’t remember sitting through class, my head was pounding the entire time so I decided to comb the textbook later for an explanation of what I missed. As I was processing all this, I realized I’d left my pencil under the desk. I shrugged and went back to my locker, pencils were cheap. As I clicked in my combination, the boy stepped in front of me again. “There goes your chance.”
“What the-” I started to yell at him, but I calmed myself down, he hadn’t done anything but confused me, which was apparently pretty easy to do. “What on earth do you mean?” I pushed forward my best sarcastic smile and grabbed my purse.
“Everything could have changed again.”
I gave him a weird look and brushed by him, I had places to be, things to think about and I didn’t need these strange instances weighing on my mind.
I ran into the boy several times throughout the week. I could only connect his appearances with second thoughts (or the lack thereof) about meaningless events. Finally, I got bored with blowing him off.
“Are you going to explain any of this?” I put my hands on my hips, I felt smart for calling him out on his stupid game, but that didn’t last long.
Just as coolly as everything he had said before, he looked me in the eyes and spoke. “Have you ever wondered how each moment of your life changes your future course? You believe everything changes in a moment, but did you really think that it’s the big moments that change things? Graduation, marriage, giving birth, birthdays, getting a job; those things aren’t really the moments that change things, but the evidence of them. The first day you saw me at your locker, you were thinking about asking to be homeschooled the next year. You let the thought go after barely a second, but had you pressured and heated it in your mind, you would have mentioned it to your mom. You wouldn’t meet half the people who are going to hurt you this year, you would have held onto your friendship with your best friend, you would have fallen in love with a boy with green eyes and a sharp mind and discovered your love for flowers. You would have encountered thousands of different choices and become a florist in Italy. But you let the thought go.”
My mind protested every word out of his mouth, it made no sense.
“Would you like to know what your choices affected? What could have been? What you’re giving up with every change in direction? What you subject yourself to with each step?” I feel like he should have been shouting at me with passion as he said these things, but instead they came out as mildly as everything else, his voice seemed to float through the air aimlessly, yet it penetrated my soul. He didn’t seem to expect an answer so we parted ways. For weeks I saw him at a distance, but I couldn’t seem to ever catch up with him unless he wanted me to.
When I had all but given up on him, I saw him at the edge of the parking lot. I determined myself not to miss another chance and I ran up to him and grabbed his shoulder. He spun around slowly and looked me in the eyes, “So, you’ve decided then?”
When my hand met his shoulder, thousands of millions of alternate realities jolted through my body. They were all so vivid, so real. My head hurt and I felt like crying but the sobs stuck in my throat. My life felt empty in comparison to all of these possibilities. What could I have changed? Who could I have been?
The boy nodded with understanding and pushed my hand off of his shoulder. “You have missed many chances in your life, but don’t think for a second that the ones you take are useless. They will be unimaginably difficult and you will always wonder if you chose the wrong path, but have faith and press on. You might not know who you are, but you’ve made quite the impact and you will for sure.” He smiled gently and started to walk away.
There’s a certain feeling in your stomach when you think you’re seeing someone walk away for the last time, it feels like you swallowed nails that grew arms and legs and suddenly want to climb out your throat, it feels like someone knocked a water faucet loose in the back of your head. The nails were climbing and the water was gushing so I called out to him.
He turned around, still smiling gently.
“What is your name? You never told me, even after all of this.”
“I am regret, I am also second chances, I am love, and fear, I am the thoughts that keep you awake at night and I am the dreams that soothe you into perfect rest.” He smiled, the way he said it made me wonder how many other people he approached with this strange offer, but it didn’t matter to me.
“Goodbye then, Inspirous, for that is what you were to me, both an inspiration and a mystery.” He beamed at me before turning away. I almost wondered what would have happened had he never stumbled across my path, but instead I was simply glad that he had.