Are You Dreaming Now?
“Up, up, and away!”
“Honey, that’s not going to work, you know?”
“But sometimes I can fly in my dreams.”
“Are you dreaming now?”
Mommy was right, of course, but sometimes I hated her matter-of-fact voice of reason and her I-always-know-better-than-you tone. Sometimes I needed her to believe in me even when she knew that the thing I wanted—the thing I needed—was impossible. She seemed incapable of that.
With daddy, on the other hand, it was a different story.
“Go ahead!” he called to me one day as I perched on top of the swing set. I had fallen six times trying to climb up, but finally I had reached the top and slid myself precariously onto the bar. “You’re going to do it this time! I can feel it!”
I jumped, holding out my arms, face to the sky, and plummeted six feet straight down into my daddy’s arms. He held me tight to his chest as I pretended to struggle against his grip.
“Next time, sweet pea,” he said, blowing raspberries on my neck.
I knew he didn’t really believe I could fly, but I enjoyed the game nonetheless. It made me feel like he really cared about me and about my dreams. After all, he didn’t have to believe my dreams to believe in them, or to believe in me.
Being a six-year-old, freckle-faced little girl with thick glasses, stringy red hair, crooked knees, and a constant assortment of scratches and bruises up and down my arms and legs, I never felt like I fit in with the other kids my age. I couldn’t run fast, I fell over frequently, and even with my glasses, things looked a little disjointed, distorted.
At recess I spent my time gazing into the sky. Everything looked sharp and clear up there: a happy yellow orb lighting up the world; white clouds puffing neatly against a canvas of deep blue; tiny black birds gliding through open space. I wanted so much to be there, to fly, unjudged, unencumbered. Although I knew it was impossible, I dreamt of it almost every night, and whenever I got the chance, I played the game with daddy.
On my seventh birthday, daddy pulled the convertible out of the garage, and I knew I was in for a treat, especially when mommy came out of the house wearing a bright smile and a cute little pink and white summer dress. Daddy sat in the driver’s seat, mommy in the passenger’s seat, and I sat wedged tightly between them, my favorite place to be.
Daddy turned to me and winked. “Let’s do some flying,” he said, turning the key and revving the engine. He motioned to the button on the dash. “Would you do the honors?” I grinned and pushed the button, looking up as the canvas roof retracted and the bright summer sky came into view. Daddy backed the car out of the driveway onto the road and we sped off toward the mountains.
It was a beautiful, crisp summer morning, and the sky was as blue as I had ever seen it, and cloudless. I gazed upward, searching for the first birds of morning, as daddy piloted the car around curves and over hills, but the sky was empty.
“Where are the birds?” I asked. “There aren’t any birds.”
“They’ll show up soon, honey,” said mommy, touching my knee. “I’m sure.”
“That’s right, sport,” daddy said, chuckling softly. “We’ll see some birds, I promise.”
“Derrick, truck!” cried mommy suddenly. It was strange hearing her call out like that, so I looked where she was pointing. I saw nothing, but I felt a heavy pressure on my chest, like I had fallen hard from the monkey bars, then I saw a bright flash and the pressure was gone.
“Sweetie?” I heard mommy’s voice and felt her arms around me. I opened my eyes and turned toward daddy, but his seat was empty. “He’s gone, baby,” mommy said quietly. I glanced over at her. Somehow she had changed from her pink and white dress into a bright red one, and she was wearing some new, deep burgundy makeup around her eyes.
I tried to reach out to her, but I couldn’t feel my hands. All I could feel was something wet and sticky on my face, and it reminded me of something. It was like one of my dreams. No, it was like all of them. Like how they ended.
Mommy tightened her arms around me and tucked me close to her chest, peering into my eyes. “Are you dreaming now, sweetie?” she asked, her words coming in short bursts.
“Yes, mommy,” I said. “I think I’m dreaming now.”
“Then fly, baby.” A crimson tear rolled down her cheek and dropped onto mine. Fly.”
I looked into her eyes. “Fly with me, mommy,” I said, motioning to the sky with my eyes. A single bird flew overhead. “If we hurry, we can still catch daddy.”
She smiled, squeezed me tight one last time, and we flew.
◊ ◊ ◊
Randy Hulshizer imagines the future by day and creates it by night. Although he loves his job as a healthcare technology forecaster and writer, he prefers writing stories that make people think and feel. His degree in biology, master’s degrees in molecular pharmacology and English rhetoric, and living with his wife, daughter, and two dogs have pushed him a little closer to the madness that fuels his writing. http://randyhulshizer.draftspring.com/