They say that some goals are impossible to achieve—that no matter how fervently you imagined, dreamt, or even planned, it could never come true. And perhaps, they are right. But, did I believe them?
“What do you think—grand, isn’t it?” I prompted, as I showed her yet another one of my sketches.
My mother responded with a thin smile. It was the same smile that had graced her meek demeanour for the past few years—an empathetic expression of little belief. Though, there was a time when she truly did believe—a time when we would have sweet cereal and cold milk for breakfast, when the weekends involved a game of frisbee at the park, and when my father would take us on spontaneous road trips in his sputtering jeep. It was a time of jaw-aching laughter, silly yet dangerous pranks, and wide grins of true belief in the bright side of life. But within three years, my mother had lost it all.
Some days, those memories didn’t seem real to me either. It would play in the blackness of my eyelids right before I fell asleep—like a family-friendly film in the popcorn-scented theater we had not visited since. It often felt like someone else’s story—perhaps, the story of another me from another universe. Were we really that happy? Is that how a genuine smile looked like—raised cheeks and wrinkles by the eyes? Some of those memories had slipped from my mind all together—now surreal.
“There’ll be three floors of swimming pool, connected with a swirling water slide. It’ll shoot through the ceiling!” I added.
“That looks like a lot of fun,” my mother said. “But you’ll need lifeguards.”
“Right. Like at the public pool,” I noted.
I almost forgot about the swimming classes I took every Friday. My father would pick me up after school—my yellow swim bag and metal lunchbox often placed on the backseat. Yet, in the recollection of those sunny afternoons, there were gaps in what was once a weekly routine. I had forgotten the warmth of the sun on my skin, the soothing humming in my ears while underwater, and the shiver in my spine as I dashed for my towel on the pool bench.
“Is it almost done?” my mother asked.
“Almost,” I replied, flipping through my sketchbook. There were a few sketches left before the blueprint of my first hotel was complete. It would be my proudest creation yet—the first step toward achieving my dream of becoming the world’s youngest architect.
“Don’t forget to show your dad,” my mother said. “He’ll want to see it.”
“Yup! I also need to ask him about the piping.” I smiled. And at that moment, I wondered—was my smile a true smile? I had no mirror—were there creases by my eyes? When my mother responded with a loving gaze, I knew—I had a smile of belief.
My parents may have long lost their belief but I had yet to lose mine. Despite the past years of uncertainty and fear, I still believed. Even when I struggled to be brave, even when I cried into my pillow, even when they could no longer remove the endotracheal tube, and even when the doctor said it could be any time now, I still believed that dreams do come true. That if you stretched your hands—reach for the stars—nothing was impossible. And though I might have forgotten what life was like—what it should be for a healthy twelve-year-old—I had not given up on it yet.
One day soon, I would be free from my restraints. I wouldn’t have to peer out of the hospital window to glimpse the stars, I would stand beneath them. I wouldn’t have to replay old memories, I would make new ones. There would be no more tears. There would only be belly-aching laughter. One day soon, my dream would come true—I would be the boy who conquered death. And there would be plenty of smiles—authentic smiles of true belief.
Reach, goals, and hotel were words given by Mervin Raymond.
It has been awhile since I’ve written something like this. And honestly, I found myself tearing up a little. I’m sorry if I made you a little sad too. I just felt like writing an emotional piece and this was it.
Now, it’s your turn! Write a story with the three words given. Perhaps you can lighten the mood with a story of your own?
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3 Words, 1 Story © 2019 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.
(Click HERE for a list of stories in this writing challenge.)