When Wishes Turn Real by Melissa Greenwood

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My parents want me to start taking medicine. They say I’m just like my grandma. The one who’s dead. No one will tell me how she died. I’m not allowed to know until I’m older, but they forget who they’re dealing with here—the very girl who figured out the Tooth Fairy was pretend when she was only in the first grade by quietly wiggling and then pulling out a not-so-loose tooth one night, tucking it under her pillow, and telling no one. That was three years ago when I was seven. Now I’m ten and even smarter. I know how my grandma died even if they won’t just come out and say it. She wished herself dead.

My family likes to tell me how alike we are—my dead grandmother and me: musical, stylish, and pretty, with the exact same bunions on our ugly feet and the same sad disposition. They tell me she took medicine and that I should too.

You’d take medicine if you had an earache, wouldn’t you? What about a fever? Diabetes? So how is this any different? they ask me.

They say Grandma Marion, who I was named after, was doing much better and feeling much happier when she was taking her pills. It was when the doctors reduced her dose in half that she got sad again and died.

I would never wish myself dead, but I have thought about what people might say about me at my funeral. I’ve never been to one, but my best friend Jo (short for Joanna) has. Her grandma died last year, and she told me that everybody goes up onto a stage they call a podium and says good things about the dead person. That part sounds nice but not nice enough to wish yourself dead. Besides, I have report cards for that.

I’ve wished my parents dead before, but I didn’t actually mean it, and God doesn’t listen when you’re only kidding. I’ve wished for smaller things too, like for Mom and Dad to stop fighting and to finally get divorced, for them to have enough money to keep sending me to private school, and for my little brother to magically transform into a sister who’d annoy me less. But I’ve never wanted to die—not really—and unless my parents and the doctors can show me that there is something the matter with my brain, why should I take medicine for my sadness when my sadness is part of what makes me like Grandma Marion(?)—the very person they all love and miss and honor by calling me Melissa, a name starting with an “M,” just like hers.

Even though I’m not gonna wish myself dead, I’m pretty sure I know how you could do it if you wanted to. The steps are to squint your eyes shut, concentrate real hard, make your mind go black, and interlace your fingers in prayer position under your chin, even if you’re Jewish, like I am. Then, picture what you want to see when you wake up dead—whatever heaven is to you: pearly white gates, fluffy clouds, puppy dogs and rainbows, all-you-can-eat chocolate chip cookies, or just plain nothingness if, like me, you don’t believe in heaven. Repeat the phrase: I wish I were dead, I wish I were dead, I wish I were dead, I wish I were dead, I wish I were dead, I wish I were dead over and over and over again.

But you have to really, really want it—bad. You have to be serious. One, two, three: no trade backs serious. No joking around, or God won’t make your wish come true, the very way He still hasn’t granted me divorced parents, a baby sister, or even Mary Jane shoes. Commit like you’ve never committed to anything before—not the way I commit to practicing the piano or being nicer to my brother. With no tradesies, you can’t ever come back from this.

Meet the Contributor

Melissa GreenwoodMelissa Greenwood has an MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Antioch University Los Angeles. She has been published in Brevity, The Los Angeles Review, the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Manifest-Station, Jewish Literary Journal, and Longridge Review, among others, and she has been nominated for awards by Meow Meow Pow Pow (best small fiction award) and Kelp (best of the net), where her work has also appeared. Melissa lives with her Canadian husband in LA, where she teaches and sometimes blogs about Pilates, he teaches elementary school, and they both partake in some nightly dark chocolate because #balance.

Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Joshboyd Studios

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