The Value of One Second, by Janin Wise
In one second, I'm seven years old, sitting in the seat behind the driver, my mother's second husband. It's the autobahn in the eighties. He adores heavy metal played loud enough to deafen. He doesn't see the sharp rise of the tail of the car in front of us. He doesn't notice the sudden bright red of their tail lights. But I do.
One second is only long enough to notice, and take the sharp intake of breath before a warning could be shrieked...not long enough to warn. And one second later, I'm reeling back from where my forehead has struck the back of the chair in front of me.
In one second, I'm eighteen and driving home for the weekend on a road I drive home on every weekend, but the on coming eighteen wheeler coming around the deep bend is on my side of the road and I can either hit him head on or jerk my wheel to the right and the second option is the only option and glass shatters to my left so I pull that wheel just a little bit harder, but the sound beneath my tires changes and I'm not really on the road and this road has no shoulder, so simultaneously, I jerk the wheel hard left to spin and pass behind the eighteen wheeler that doesn't even stop after hitting me, and shift my stick shift into gear...
And the next second I'm sitting in the opposite ditch, my car purring, my lap full of shattered glass and watching the eighteen wheeler drive away from me like maybe he never saw me at all.
In one second I'm nineteen and my then boyfriend sees the wreck unfurling towards us even as I see it unfurling towards us and he calls my name in fear three times, and with cat like reflexes, I avoid it and it hits the sign behind us instead, and in the next second, in irritation as we sit on the curb at a stop waiting for the police to come take our statement I turn to him and say, 'I saw it too. You didn't need to call my name three times.' And he blinks and says, 'But...Janin...I only said it once.'
In one second I'm twenty four and it's Christmas and my in-laws are taking us to the movies and I see in slow motion from the back of the van as we approach the green light that the oncoming car hasn't noticed their turn light is red, and they haven't noticed because he's driving and she's in the passenger seat and they're looking at each other for just a second, the exact same second my father-in-law is driving hadn't noticed the other car is going yo turn illegally in front of him because he and my mother-in-law who is in her passenger seat are looking at each other for just a second as well, and in that second I brace my feet across the floor, tighten my seat belt desperately putting it across my lap and under my pregnant belly and hold it with all my strength as I yell, 'Stop!' But they haven't seen what I have been watching and I close my eyes and pray for the safety of us all as the two vehicles collide at 45 mph. And the next second, everyone is remarkably unharmed and there is only minor damage to the fender. We end up going to the movie, "The Majestic".