I mirror their smiles because it’s all I know how to do. The bigger the smiles the worse the news. I learned that a couple of years ago, or maybe it was something I always knew but refused to accept. I wanted to keep believing in hope. And truthfully I still do believe in hope and miracles, but it seems to favor everyone else.
A group of four parades into the room bearing balloons, flowers, and one enormous stuffed bear. Telling them I’m too old for these things and I’m fairly certain I have an allergy to this particular genus of flower seems cruel. So I accept them with a thank you. I stretch my smile wider, although I’m very, very tired right now.
They’re feeling festive. Behind the saccharine grins are even more layers of sugary delights like digging to the core of Candyland. God, I hate that game.
The leader of the group was a bubbly eighteen or nineteen year old blonde. She introduced herself as Jenny. She looks like a Jenny. Jenny is that type of girl you know immediately is a head cheerleader and valedictorian. So put together and sure of herself. Well, this is what I assume a girl like her looks like. All I have to go off of is movies and books after all.
This would be my freshman year of high school if I was able to attend. The closest I’ve come to school in some time has been through the words on the page. And from what I’ve read lately everybody seems to be a supernatural entity caught in a love triangle. So maybe this is all for the best. Although I’d love to meet a werewolf for myself.
So cool.
“These are my friends,” she says with a smile so sweet it could give you stage two diabetes. “And we’re from the Make-A-Wish foundation.”
My mom, who in my hazes had forgotten was here with me, lets out a squeal of excitement. If she wasn’t so tired, so stressed out from the long nights with me and the longer days of her crumbling marriage, she may have shouted so loud the windows would shatter. That’s something they never tell you in all those “How To Cope With Losing Your Child” books which are churned out like printed money. Though I suppose a chapter on how two people who say they love each other are placed in a situation that can’t be summed up in words they are reduced to survival instincts.
Fight or flight.
More often than not the latter wins. One, two, three. Ring the bell, baby. It’s a wrap.
I sit up further in the hospital bed. The IV wriggles a bit, but I hardly feel it anymore. To mask the needling feeling in my bones I grin like a birthday clown. The worse it hurts the more I smile. Law of the land.
Mom grabbed my hand, and I can feel her tremble. She always calls me her rock, her foundation. Yet even as she stands beside me shaking like a newborn calf, looking as exhausted as she was, my mom is the strongest person I have ever seen. Each day I sample a bit of her strength just to get me through the day.
She is my Hercules.
My Atlas.
“So,” says the possible cheerleader. “If you could think of one thing to wish for, anything at all, what would it be?”
I close my eyes and do my breathing exercises. To the outside world it looks like I’m excited. In reality however I’m merely counting the moments until it would look okay to finally answer. The breathing exercise came courtesy of a new age healer who had been brought in a few times to help me deal with the pain, the bouts of sickness that would leave me covered in last night’s dinner. It did help, but on most occasions I used it to block out the world. Block out the melody of the machines. Block out the voices of worry. Block out everything, allowing time to slow into an abyss I wish I could settle into for all eternity.
What would I wish for? Survey says! Not to have cancer that’s spread to my nerves making everything I do painful. A few years ago I took up sketching. Mostly superheroes and stuff like that. I wasn’t that good, but it was a gift that was mine. Something I could do. It made me feel normal. But if this girl and her friends could grant this wish they’d be miracle workers.
So I move onto my next thought. If I could wish for anything at all I’d wish for a girlfriend like Jenny, Ms. Perky Cheerleader with a heart for sick kids. Sure it may be a little selfish, but if a cancer kid can’t be selfish from time to time, who can? A hot blond on my arm to kiss and fool around with. Hell, if I’m going to go off into the great adventure beyond this world does it have to be as a virgin too?
Sex though is not really the reason I want her.
My family will mourn me. They have to. It’s how these things work. A piece of the bloodline dries out and the bloodline covers it up.
If I was lucky a few kids I called friends from elementary school may show up at my funeral. They’d show up, only to forget me again when I’m in the ground. The reason I want Jenny Rah-Rah-Shish-Boom-Ba is so someone else will miss me. Someone who doesn’t have to love me. Someone from another bloodstream. Mom, will of course, place a rose on my headstone. Why should that rose be alone?
I don’t know. Maybe I just read too many books, and they’ve put a bit of romanticism in me. I should be happy I’m not in high school after all if I’m going to be this saptastic. Any sappier you could drill a hole in me to flavor your flapjacks.
But as much as I would want her, would want to have her to want me, to love me, it would never happen. Girls like her didn’t stay single long enough for the tears from their recent breakup to form before the next pretty boy came along. All brawn, no sense. It was girls like her who wouldn’t get the guy they truly deserved until their thirties once the jocks sucked them dry. Then here come the lowly ones to replenish them again. Bring her back to her former glory, the glory of Jenny Jenny Shish-Boom-Ba.
Besides I want her to actually love me. I want her to be my first, my last. Sex may be great, but call me old fashioned to want a real relationship. To form a connection with her greater than her physical body before we did it.
Again I think I’m reading too many books.
Next on the wonderful list of things not likely to happen is certainly never going to happen. If I could wish for anything in the world to come true it would be for my daydreams to be real. I’ve kept these dreams to myself. If I spoke them aloud I’d probably wind up getting a psych eval along with the other battery of tests. And I don’t want the docs to take them away. They bring me a little peace.
What I dream about is being a superhero, just like the one I read about in the comics. I call myself Ultra because…well, it sounds friggin’ awesome! My suit is gold with a royal blue cape. Such a classic look. My hair, oh yeah I still have hair, is a black that looks like spilled oil. It’s so tall and outlandish it could give young Elvis a run for his money.
Yeah baby, don’t step on my blue suede cape.
In tonight’s episode of Ultra: Man of Action we find our hero in the clutches of the nefarious Dr. Wicked and his gang of henchmen. That’s right Ultrateers, Ultra is trapped! Strapped to the mad doctor’s Chemomatrix. (Pause for audience gasp). How long will our Man of Action last? Find out in tonight’s thrilling episode: Healthcare Havoc!
At least once day I fantasize about being Ultra. And what’s a hero without his gallery of rogues? Mine are made up of everyone I meet here in the hospital; doctors, nurses, transport, you name it. My personal favorite is Dr. Weiss aka Dr. Wicked. With is untamed white hair, and his glasses that never seemed to stay straight he had evil villain written all over him.
On most occasions though he was the nicest guy ever. So why not toughen him up a bit? Make him the scourge of the seven continents with his horde of nurses armed with poison syringes and super strong gauze to tie up Ultra when things got hairy.
It was fun. I’m just having a little fun with these people every day in my head. There’s no crime in that. If they could grant me this wish…man, that would be something else.
But they can’t.
There’s not a whole lot outside of my top three wishes that I honestly want. What more could a dying boy ask for? Well, that’s what I think anyways. Yet I know that’s a lie.
I look over to my mom. I see her hopeful glimmer taking cover behind her dampening eyes. It’s so beautiful and yet frightening at the same time. I want to lose myself in those pools. I want to cry…but I can’t. I need to be strong for her. Keep her hope alive.
What I wish for, what I really wish for, is for this look of hope and happiness to stay with her as long as possible. My wish isn’t about me. It’s about her. About us. And I’d gladly give her a thousand of my wishes if I could.
The answer comes to me. Now all I have to do is make it sound like it really is about me.
“I think I know what I want.” I say as nonchalantly as possible. “I’d love to be part of a Broadway musical. Wicked maybe. I always wanted to try my hand at acting. My mom can come too, right?”
I smile so hard it hurts. She always wanted to see Wicked. If nothing else I want to be there when she does. Hell, I’ll be one of the extras on stage perhaps. A great memory to have of me when things get rough, too hard to handle. Mom buries her face into my chest, seeming to forget that that actually hurts. Then I feel the hot wetness of happy tears soaking through my hospital dressings. The pain eases away. This is more than enough for me.
More than I could want in a lifetime.


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