“Tell me, what do you want next year?”
Amaro looked over the old man’s shoulder and scanned the assortment of colorful crystals beneath the glass boxes.
“I want to be rich, Ezra. I’m tired of being looked down on. I’m tired of people thinking I’m worthless.”
“Are you sure?” Ezra asked. He knew that the request for wealth would always come up, but Amaro’s words bothered him.
Amaro nodded vigorously. “Of course I’m sure. When I heard about your crystals, I knew that coming here would be my chance of leaving my beggar life behind.”
“Do you have a pouch ready for the crystal?”
Amaro showed him a piece of denim fabric and a rubber band. “I cut this out of my only pair of jeans.”
Ezra nodded and then walked over to one of the glass boxes and took the enclosed crystal out. Returning back to Amaro, he showed him the brass-yellow crystal.
Amaro’s eyes lit up. “You’re giving me gold?”
“No, this is pyrite. It attracts wealth and abundance.”
“Ahh, even better. Thank you, Ezra. Once I get rich, I’ll take you out to the fanciest restaurants in town. You probably don’t get much good food around here, do you?”
Ezra wrapped the crystal in the denim fabric as he shrugged. “I manage with what I can find.”
Amaro grinned. “Same, same.” Then, taking the crystal from Ezra’s hands, he said, “Well, I’ll see you when I’m rich!” before walking out the door with a spring in his step.
Ezra sighed as he watched Amaro prance off in his ripped and dusty clothes. It was December 31st, the last day of the year. Ezra Newman was an old jeweler, but to anyone who had visited his small jewelry gallery, he was an expert at helping people leave their old lives behind. After retiring from being a crystallographer, Newman had moved to the outskirts of town and set up a jewelry gallery. For fifty-one weeks of the year, he would travel and collect crystals. Then during the last week of the year, he would open his jewelry gallery. People would tell him their new year’s wish, and he would give them the appropriate crystal for free. The only conditions were 1) the wish had to be true to the individual, and 2) the individual had to bring their own pouch to carry the crystal.
Ezra’s crystals were known for their transformative power, especially regarding a person’s character. Over the years, he had seen quick-tempered men become patient husbands, anxious mothers become courageous women, and shy children become confident adults. But every one of those individuals had something in common: they were honest with themselves and weren’t afraid to examine their old life.
Thirty minutes after Amaro left, Ezra was polishing a K2 crystal when a timid voice said, “Are you Mr. Ezra Newman?”
Ezra raised his head and saw a teenage boy standing in the doorway of the gallery. The boy wore a dress shirt with leather pants and boots, and Ezra could immediately tell that he came from a rich family.
“Yes, come in. Don’t be afraid.”
The boy took a few steps inside.
“What is your name, lad?”
“And what brings you here?”
Tristan shifted nervously. “I...I wanted to get a crystal.”
Tristan then reached into his pocket and pulled out a velvet pouch. “Here's my pouch.”
Ezra drummed his fingers on the glass box. “I see... What do you want next year?”
Tristan looked down. “I want freedom from my parents.”
Ezra raised his eyebrows. “Your parents?”
Tristan continued staring at the floor. “They want me to continue their restaurant business. They keep bossing me around and telling me what to do, and I just want to do my own thing.”
Ezra rubbed his chin. “And what would that be?”
Tristan finally raised his head, his eyes furrowed in confusion. “What do you mean?”
“You said that you want to do your own thing. What is your own thing?”
Tristan shrugged. “Oh, I don’t know. I just don’t want to be controlled by my parents.”
When Ezra didn’t say anything, Tristan scratched his elbows. “Do you have a crystal for that?”
“Let me see.”
Ezra turned and headed towards the glass box in the corner. If Ezra’s gut feeling was correct, Tristan seemed to be hiding something. But his job was just to listen to wishes and find the appropriate crystal, so he lifted the cover and removed a deep-blue crystal.
Tristan was waiting patiently near the door. When Ezra drew near, Tristan held the velvet pouch open.
“This is a lapis lazuli crystal,” explained Ezra, pointing to the small crystal in his palm. “It will help you take the lead in your own life.”
Tristan carefully placed it in his pouch. “Thank you, Mr. Newman.”
“Make good decisions!” Ezra said as Tristan turned around.
“I’ll try!” Tristan promised before running out the door.
As the clock struck midnight and fireworks lit up the sky, Ezra muttered, “Happy New Year!” Then he closed the gallery door and proceeded to put the crystals back in his storeroom. He grasped the nearest crystal, a light-orange aragonite crystal, and was surprised that it didn’t budge at all. Then he tried picking up other crystals - jet black obsidian, dark-green jade, brownish-yellow citrine - but they were all stuck too. It was then that Ezra Newman knew that something was wrong.
The next day, Ezra woke up to someone banging on the gallery door. Fumbling his way to the door in his pajamas, he opened the door to see Tristan there. But instead of the bashful boy he saw yesterday, Tristan was jumping up and down. “Thank you, Mr. Newman! If I had known it would be this fast, I would have told you my wish a long time ago. Now, what would you like for breakfast? It’s my treat.”
Ezra rubbed his eyes. The person standing in front of him talked like Amaro, but he looked and sounded like Tristan. What was going on?
Then, Ezra heard someone running toward the gallery and saw Amaro running towards him. When Amaro reached them, he fell on his knees and grasped Ezra’s ankles.
“Mr. Newman! This isn’t what I meant when I said I didn't want to be controlled by my parents. Now, I’m all alone and even the dogs won’t stop and greet me.”
Suddenly, Ezra understood what had happened. “Amaro! Tristan! Both of you in my gallery, now!”
“Whoa, you still have your crystals out? Isn’t it the new year already?” The new Tristan asked, grazing his hands over the glass boxes.
Ezra slapped his hand on the glass box, causing the new Amaro to jump. “Well, turns out there’s been a problem. You two have switched bodies, and I’m not able to get the crystals out. The only way this could have happened is if you two lied.”
The new Tristan scrunched up his face and laughed. “What?! Why would I lie about wanting to get rich?” He looked at the new Amaro, who was staring down at the floor.
“It wasn’t a complete lie,” The new Amaro started. “I do feel controlled by my parents. On weekdays when I’m done with my homework, and on the weekends, they make me help out at their restaurant. I never really have any free time.”
“But your family, I guess my family now, owns the most successful restaurant in town! Isn't it an honor to help out at the restaurant?”
The new Amaro sighed. “Theoretically, yes. But my parents are just so...bossy. I don’t even know what I’m allowed to think or feel anymore.”
They stood around the glass box in silence. Then Ezra said, “Well, if you guys didn’t lie, it looks like you haven’t quite figured out what you really want. Until that happens, you two will be stuck in each other’s bodies. You’ll need to dig deep and think about what you truly want. Sometimes it’s not the first thing you think of. I have a hunch, but if I tell you, that’ll ruin the power of the crystals. When you’ve figured out what your real wish is, I’ll be able to move the crystals again, and I’ll let you know right away. After that, we’ll just need to put the correct crystals in the same bags you brought earlier.”
“Wait, that means I won’t be rich anymore?” the new Tristan asked.
Ezra sighed. “Well, since that’s not your real wish, you’ll go back to being a beggar next year anyway. Also, I need to put these crystals in the store room to preserve their power.”
The new Tristan nodded slowly. “Okay then.”
And with that, Amaro and Tristan left to figure out their real wish as they lived in their new lives.
When Amaro got back to Tristan’s house, Tristan’s parents were about to head to their restaurant next door.
“Tristan! I saved some breakfast for you in the kitchen. After you finish eating, come help us at the restaurant.”
“Okay, mom. Thanks for the food!” Heading into the kitchen, Amaro’s mouth watered at the large plate of eggs and bacon. It had been a really long time since he had eaten a good meal. Outside, Tristan’s mom whispered to Tristan’s dad, “Tristan thanked me! He’s finally coming to his senses.”
Meanwhile, Tristan trudged through the dark alleys of the town. He saw a cat perched on top of a closed trash bin, sniffing its contents. Tristan lifted the lid, and the cat immediately dove in and hopped back out with the remains of a fish in his mouth. Holding his nose, Tristan peaked into the trash can. There was a disposable plate filled with pizza crusts, and Tristan cringed as he took it out. “I guess this is my breakfast today.”
Back in Tristan’s house, Amaro had finished breakfast and headed next door to Tristan’s family restaurant. Once he walked into the kitchen, Tristan’s dad said, “You’re just in time. We’ve got a bunch of dishes ready. You can take them to the customers.”
Amaro was excited, but also a little apprehensive. Would the customers be nice and thank him? Or would they ignore him like they ignored him in the alleys?
With a dish in each hand, Amaro went out from the kitchen. Immediately, people turned to look at him with excitement in their eyes. Amaro had never been looked at this way before. In the alleys, people usually shied away from him or looked at him with pity or disgust. Here, he knew the people mostly cared about the food he was carrying, but it felt nice to attract others’ attention, even if they looked away in disappointment when they realized the dish wasn’t for them.
After setting down one of the dishes, the customer glanced at him, muttering a quick “Thank you” before looking back at his phone. Another customer barely even acknowledged him and continued animatedly talking with his friends. But to Amaro, he felt like he was finally doing something that felt valuable.
Back in the alleys, Tristan had finished his pizza and was lying against a wall. The cat that he had helped earlier sat on a cardboard box next to him. After a while, the cat went out of the alley, and Tristan followed it, wondering where it was going to go. Finally, the cat stopped in front of another closed trash can. The cat turned to look back at Tristan, as if it were waiting for something. Realizing that he was now the cat’s designated trash can opener, he held his breath and lifted the lid. This time, the cat pulled out a bag of chips and someone’s half-eaten burger.
From then on, Tristan accompanied the cat on scavenger hunts for food. During their scavenger hunts, Tristan started to pay more attention to his surroundings. Each day at around meal times, he hid behind various bushes and walls, waiting for people to throw some leftovers out. For the rest of the day, he and the cat would venture to various parts of town, searching for food. Sometimes they found a treasure trove of food, only to discover that they would need to compete with raccoons and rats, or share with other poor folks. And there were days when they couldn’t find anything to eat at all. As the days passed, Tristan missed his old life where food was abundant and easily accessible. But to his surprise, living on the streets and going on adventures with the cat actually made him feel more alive than he had ever felt before.
After a week of helping out at the restaurant, Amaro found himself enjoying the work. Tristan’s parents let him help out with any task, happy that their son was finally immersed in the family business. Besides being a waiter, Amaro had also swept the floor, cleaned up tables, washed the dishes, and chopped vegetables. Gradually, he realized that what made his new life so satisfying wasn’t the abundance of wealth but the opportunity to do useful work and the way Tristan’s parents treated him. To him, their nagging made him feel loved and cared for.
Back in his jewelry gallery, Ezra was polishing the crystals in their glass boxes when he tried lifting them again. To his surprise and relief, he was able to lift them! That meant Tristan and Amaro had finally realized their true wishes.
Rushing to his desk, Ezra wrote two letters, one addressed to Tristan, and one addressed to Amaro, with the words “Bring your crystal and bag. - EN”
Later that day, Tristan was sitting in an alley, sharing a piece of bread with the cat, when he saw a dog approaching him. Looking closer, he saw that the dog was carrying something in his mouth. When the dog reached him, the dog lowered its mouth to the ground and dropped a rolled up piece of paper at Tristan’s feet. Picking it up and unrolling it, Tristan read “Bring your crystal and bag. -EN” With his legs shaking, Tristan stood up and looked at the cat. “I won’t forget you. I’ll be back.” Then, checking his pocket for the crystal and pouch, he set off for Ezra’s jewelry gallery.
Five blocks away, Amaro opened his mailbox to retrieve the day’s mail. He was surprised to see an envelope addressed to him with no stamp on it. Opening the envelope, Amaro unfolded the piece of paper, his eyes widening as he read the words. With a sigh, Amaro patted his pocket where the crystal and pouch was. “I guess it’s time.”
Poking his head into the restaurant’s kitchen, Amaro said, “Mom! Dad! I’m going to go for a walk.”
Tristan’s dad stopped chopping vegetables and said, “Just be back when the restaurant opens again.”
“I’ll try, dad!” Then, he bolted towards the jewelry gallery.
Ten minutes later, Amaro reached the gallery and saw Tristan there waiting with Ezra.
“I thought you wouldn’t show up,” Tristan said.
“Yeah, well, I figured it’s not really the being rich part that I like about your old life. It’s being treated like a normal human, being able to help out, and being cared for. It might seem like your parents are controlling you, but it’s really because they care for you.”
Tristan nodded. “Yeah, I realized that I’ve been pretty unreasonable to them. Being on the streets actually isn’t as bad as I thought it would be.” Chuckling, he said, “I basically have a pet cat now, and I’m getting better at finding food.”
Amaro smiled as Ezra cleared his throat. “Okay, so I called you two back because I’m able to move the crystals now. Which means you’ve figured out your real wish. Now tell me, what do you truly want this year?”
Amaro spoke first. “I want to feel valued. I want to be helpful.”
“I want to find something that motivates me. I want to find satisfaction in the little things.”
Ezra smiled. Then opening his right palm toward Amaro, he said, “This is a Rhodochrosite crystal, meant to bring worthiness, love, and compassion.” Opening his left palm toward Tristan, he said, “And this is an Apatite crystal. It increases your appetite for life.”
He patted their shoulders. “And now, we just need to switch out the previous crystals.”
Tristan and Amaro took out their old crystals from their pouches, and Ezra placed the new ones in: Rhodochrosite in the denim bag for Tristan, and Apatite in the velvet bag for Amaro.
Within a few seconds, the old crystals disintegrated.
“Mr. Newman, I think it worked.” Tristan said.
“Yep, I’m back in these ripped clothes.” Amaro said.
They looked at each other, wondering if they would be okay.
“I have an idea,” Tristan said. “Amaro, you can come work at our restaurant! And we can give the leftover food to the stray animals and the other beggars!”
Amaro grinned. “Yeah the restaurant should definitely do something about the extra food, and your parents did say they need more people to help out. They also said to get back before the restaurant opens.”
Tristan’s eyes widened and he glanced at his watch. “We have fifteen minutes! We can make it if we run!”
“Be careful what you wish for next year!” He shouted as he watched them run off.