Winner of the Writer's Cramp. A dying girl hangs on for a chance to meet Andrew, her hero.
|I sat there, at our old kitchen table as everyone sang the corny birthday song to me.
I had finally made it to adulthood.
This was no small feat. It took a lot of help to get me here. I almost died so many times. I shouldn’t have been there to be sung to. I should have felt self-conscious, my naked head uncovered and gleaming with sweat. It was too hot for a bandana or hat.
A giant chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting sat in the center of the table, even though I wouldn’t be able to eat it. It didn’t even look good to me. I had grown more familiar lately with the taste of vomit than of food.
I knew that everyone wondered why I had stuck around so long. It certainly would have been easier to allow death to take me. Even a doctor will tell you that the will to live is important. It’s everything.
I held on for Andrew.
No one could caress a mandolin like Andrew. The way he could sing such heartbreaking, beautiful songs. I loved him from the first moment I saw him and his wife playing together at some music festival on tv.
Last July I found out about the concert thirty miles away. Mom said “maybe” when I asked if I could go. I knew what she meant.
If I was still alive by then.
So I fought. I held on when I didn’t want to. For him. Tonight.
Isaac, Monica, and Amy, my three best friends ate my cake for me. They felt bad for eating in front of me. I could see it on their faces. They shouldn’t have. I hoped it tasted amazing for them. Afterward, my mom wheeled me to the van and helped me inside. It wasn’t hard to do. I didn’t weigh very much anymore. She kissed my forehead and hugged me as tight as she dared. I could see it in her eyes.
She was afraid I wouldn't’ come back.
I dozed off during the short trip, and soon the nightclub loomed bright and booming ahead of us. A large, flashing marquis announced my dream come true.
The air inside the bar was thick with anticipation and cigarette smoke. Mom had worried about the smoke. She’d ranted about the concert being held at a club. I only cared that they allowed eighteen-year-olds in.
The lights dimmed, and the stage lights kicked on. There!
Andrew came out first, followed by Emily and the rest of the band. I didn’t know if I was breathing or not. The crowd erupted into applause, and they moved in tight around the stage, making it so I couldn’t see from down in my chair.
Isaac scooped me up and positioned me on his shoulders as the other boyfriends did for their ladies. It felt nice to be normal, just another love-struck couple out on the town. Of course, that wasn’t us at all and Isaac was actually dating Amy, but at that moment I was the girl of the hour, alive and vibrant, the one everyone wanted to be like, talk like, and dress like.
Andrew looked at me during the mandolin solo of “Wildfire.” Our eyes held onto each other like long lost lovers at last reunited.
When the song ended, Andrew began to speak. He told the crowd of a very special fan who had gone through a lot to be there, and he wanted everyone to applaud for them as he sang a special song in their honor. I was touched that the band would care so much for one fan. Then I was jealous of that fan.
Isaac began pushing through the crowd so that we floated closer to the stage. A light shone on us from somewhere above our heads. The fans were hushed. We seemed to be suspended in time, the smoke swirled around us like a fog. Andrew smiled and reached for my hand. Emily lifted her strumming hand from her guitar and waved.
I didn’t realize I was crying until a stagehand passed me a tissue. My friends exchanged knowing glances that told me this had been planned all along.
Andrew kissed my hand, then began to play my favorite song in the whole world.
“Born to die, born to die, darling, you’ll live no longer than your years…”
This was it. This was my encore, my reason for being born. I was fulfilled...I had fought the good fight and won the race.
When the last line of the song drifted through the room on angel’s wings, I noticed someone else in the room. My mom now stood behind me and placed her hand on my back.
“Happy birthday, beautiful girl,” she called up to me. I could only smile and mouth “I love you” as I took flight, the somber notes carrying me home.
“Please stay, until the last light fades...Please stay, until the last light fades.”