This week's prompt focused on character development. We asked you to tell us what your character - or you -wants. It's a way to get to know your character or yourself better.
What I Want
I can hear it before I see it; the helicopter hovering just beyond the edge of my neighborhood. My daughter hears it, too.
“What’s that?” she cries.
“It’s a helicopter” I reply, trying not to let my voice betray the worry that the presence of the helicopter brings.
“Heh-ih-copper” she repeats, then continues to water the garden in the twilight.
When we are finished with the garden and our outdoor play, we go into the house. The helicopter still hovers in the air, and I know that there is trouble. I turn on the news and, soon enough, I see that there is a water rescue taking place in the neighborhood just beyond my own. My stomach sinks and I send up the closest thing I know to a prayer that someone’s baby is safe today. A wish and a hope that this will be the time they spend their lives talking about, remembering how lucky they were.
At work the next morning, I ask if anyone knows about the water rescue. They tell me that an 8 year old girl died. My heart twists into a painful knot. I hurt for her, her family, her friends, the kids who swam with her, the rescuers who could not revive her.
I drive by the pool that afternoon. I had suspected that this was the one, but, seeing it, I am now certain. It’s total silence on this hot afternoon says all I need to know about the tragedy that still hangs in the air.
I did not know this girl. I did not know her family, but in my mind’s eye, I can see her sparkling eyes and the smile that lights up her face. I see the wet hair slicked back from her forehead as she breaks the surface of the water, giggling with her friends. I feel how she grows tired as she plays and how she ignores this, pushes it down so that she can enjoy just a little more time.
In my mind’s eye, I imagine her swallowing just a bit too much water. Her friends aren’t paying attention. Is her family at the edge of the pool? Is anyone, anyone watching as she struggles to the surface and gasps her last breath? Where are the adults who promised to love and protect her? Didn’t we all make that promise?
I didn’t know this little girl. I cannot say if she was sweetness and light or fire and passion. I cannot say whether she was loved or cared for by her family. I cannot say whether she was popular or pretty or kind or sweet. I can only say that today, in this moment, the thing I want most in the world is to have her back. To be there with her, to have held out a hand to a struggling little girl and pulled her to the edge of the pool where she could catch her breath and go on about her play. To not have her family know the pain that the loss of a precious daughter could bring.
I know this pain too well. It is not a pain worth knowing. Some things you go through and, once on the other side, you grow and know that it was worth it. Not this. Never this pain. So today, perhaps inexplicably, to reverse time and and remove the pain and return that summer day to its rightful place in the happy blur of her childhood, today, to save a girl and a family I never even knew, this is what I want the most.