Name: Stephen Balter
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary 14 & up
Title: I WISH I COULD FLY
I wish I could fly.
I’d ride the thermals with my wings outstretched, soaring, carving, diving toward the ground in a death-defying plunge, only to pull out at the last moment.
Then maybe I wouldn’t have to face the consequences. I could run away, fly away.
I know it might seem like cowardice. But tell me, what would you do? I don’t expect you to feel sorry for me. I just want someone to hear me out. You can come to your own conclusions. It’s a free world. Or so they say.
I suppose you could just trust me when I tell you that I shouldn’t be here, in this untenable situation, between this rock and that hard place. But how could you trust me? I’m standing here in a pool of blood, and I think I might have just killed the only person that ever believed in me.
Damn, I wish I could fly.
I’ll begin at the beginning, or as close to it as I can remember. Because nobody remembers their absolute beginning, so there’s no shame in starting after that.
I have to remind myself of that all the time, the part about there being no shame. Shame is for losers. And I’m not a loser. Not anymore.
My father. That’s a different story. Now there was a loser, with a capital “L”. I know. Respect your elders. But are you really supposed to respect an elder who tosses you like a rag doll across the room? Aren’t three-year-old girls supposed to want to play with their dads? Yeah, that’s one of my first glorious memories. Looking back, I’m kinda proud of myself. It didn’t really take me long to figure out I needed to stay away from that asshole.
But Mom wasn’t much better. She never threw me across the room. At least I don’t remember her doing that. She just sat in a trance all the time. She was probably liquored up or baked or something.
More recently, I’ve wondered what was worse. Having a father who beat the shit out of me, or a mother who let him. I still haven’t decided, but for the last two years, since just after my fourteenth birthday, it hasn’t mattered. That’s when Mom died and I got the hell outta there…
I’ve changed my mind.
You don’t really need to hear all that cry me a river crap. Let’s just say it wasn’t all peaches and cream and move on.
Six months ago everything changed for me. Up until then I guess you could say I had been down on my luck. I had been living on the streets, doing what I had to do to get by. Stuff I don’t really want to talk about. It’s not important anyway. What matters is that six months ago, late at night, on the Vegas strip, I met Captain Jack, and everything changed.
I wasn’t working that night. You can’t work every night. Besides, I had enough to get by on and when it was like that, when I didn’t have to worry about food for a few days, I took a break. I liked going down to the strip, the nice part, where all the fancy casinos are. It’s like a dream world.
I would stand for hours, leaning over the wall in front of the Bellagio Hotel, watching the fountain showthe colors, the dancing water, the music, it’s Vegas at it’s best. If you ever want to feel alive, stand in front of the Bellagio.
That night I felt as alive as I had in a long time. I was primed. I just knew something had to go my way. Just had a feeling, you know? Given the way my life had gone so far, I figured the odds were with me.
So there I was, leaning over the wall, listening to music blast out of the speakers, when fate tapped me on the shoulder.
I know it was fate, because it was just how Sugar had described it.
I miss Sugar.
I met Sugar not too long after I got to Vegas. She had been on the streets for a long time, longer than she could remember. She looked out for me, showed me the ropes.
She always would tell me that the streets weren’t the life for me, that I was destined for something better. One day I said, “How do you know, Sugar?”
And that’s when she sat me down on the bench at the bus stop and laid it all out for me. “Sweetness,” (that’s what she always called me) “you different than the rest of us. I seen it in you since I first laid eyes on you.” Her gold teeth reflected the neon sign in the liquor store window. “You got somethin’ special. And one day, you gonna make somethin’ outta yourself.”
“You really think so?”
“I know so. First off, ain’t nobody on these streets talk like you. Half the time I ain’t even know what you talkin’ about. You too smart for the rest of us. And you just a baby. Sooner or later, someone’ll see that you ain’t belong here. Fate’s gonna tap you on the shoulder. And then you gonna be saved.”
“Sweetness. You know all them fancy words, but you ain’t know fate?”
Of course I knew what fate was. Page 258. After fat cat and before fated.
Fate: the will or principle or determining cause by which things in general are believed to come to be as they are, or events to happen as they do.
I knew what fate was. I just didn’t know that it could tap you on the shoulder. But it did.
That night, six months ago, I was leaning over the wall staring at the fountains, lost in the magic, when something hit me. Not like a thought, something actually hit me.
The desert nights can get pretty cold and windy. I don’t suppose as cold as some places, but I’ll bet windier than most. The wind was whipping that night, the spray from the fountains soaking me. But I didn’t care.
I was standing there, minding my own business, when something hit my shoulder. It was fatein the form of a baseball cap.