My second attempt for The First Line. November 2012, 961 words

Sometimes, when it’s quiet, I can remember what my life was like before moving to Cedar Springs.

Most of the time, though, I don’t want to remember. Remembering is painful and I moved here to escape from the pain. I was eighteen when I gave birth to Jasper. He was the light of my life and my whole world revolved around him. He was two when he was diagnosed with leukemia. And he was sixteen when he died.

The night he died, the circus came into town. Jasper’s two loves were the circus and magic. His dream was to be a magician in the circus. He wanted to bring magic and tricks to the show.

On his way to the magic store that morning, Jasper collapsed. We’ve been battling the leukemia for his whole life it seems, and everyday I feared the phone call. I had tickets to the circus for that night. Jasper was beyond excited and I couldn’t wait to watch him enjoy the show. He said he planned to sneak into the lion’s cage and work his magic. I had no idea what he meant, but I couldn’t bear to dim the light in his eyes.

He was rushed to the hospital and I met them there. Our oncologist was not optimistic. He didn’t think Jasper would make it through this time.

“But what about the circus? We’ve had tickets for six months? You know Jasper has been on cloud nine about going,” I said.

“It can’t happen, I’m sorry. His numbers are through the roof. He’s coughing up blood. He can barely hold himself up.”

I shook my head. It didn’t seem real. “He’s been dreaming about this his whole life,” I said as tears started rolling down my cheeks.

I decided to go to the circus. I would videotape it so that when Jasper was well enough he could watch it. And it was lovely. The clowns, the colors, the high-wire ladies. I cried the whole time. I wished Jasper could have been here. He would have been so enthusiastic, jumping in his seat, giving encouragement, just shining.

When the lions came out and started their act, I became hysterical. The couple next to me looked like they wanted to flee. Crazy crying lady at the circus. Since when? I decided to leave. It was too much, knowing Jasper would never see the circus live.

I returned to the hospital, hoping Jasper was asleep. I didn’t want him to see me this way. I walked into his room and was shocked to see it empty. I ran out to the nurses’ station. “Where’s my son? Why didn’t someone call me?” The nurse put her hands up, beseeching me to calm down. It was too much. I was wrung out.

“He’s perfectly fine. He went for a walk with one of the orderlies. I think they’re up on the roof,” the nurse said gently.

I flew up the stairs. No matter how long this battle had gone on, I still wasn’t ready to say goodbye. I want to keep him with me every second of every day. I want to take him to a million circuses. I want him to live his dream and work with the lions and magic.

I finally reached the top. I burst through the door and came to a sudden stop. There he was, sitting on the roof and looking up at the stars and moon. He looked so peaceful and happy. “Jasper,” I whispered.

“Hey Mom! Look at the moon and the stars! Aren’t they incredible?”

“They are. I brought you something,” I gestured to the video camera.

“Oh cool, what is it?”

“A surprise. Let’s head down to your room and we’ll watch it together.”

I watched as the orderly picked up Jasper and carried him to the stairs. Jasper was still going on and on about the stars and the moon. Once he was comfortable, he grew impatient.

“Mom, press play. Let’s watch the movie you brought! Is this the one of my birth again?” Jasper laughed.

Shaking my head, I laughed and pressed play. “No, this I think you’ll enjoy much more!”

Jasper sucked in his breath. “Oh Mom, this is fantastic. Thank you!”

I sat down next to him and just watched him. He was so enthusiastic, just like I knew he would be. He cringed and held his breath when the tight-rope ladies did their thing. He laughed out loud for the clowns. He cheered for the elephants. And went crazy when they shot the man out of the cannon. When the lions came, he sat still. Unmoving until the video stopped. “I’m sorry Jasper, that’s the end. I couldn’t finish.”

“That’s okay, Mom. I really enjoyed it. I’m so glad you went. I know it was hard for you.”

“I just have such high hopes for you. I really wanted you to get to see the circus today. Sometimes I get so mad. Why you? You’re sixteen and haven’t lived yet,” I said as tears started to fall down my face. I brushed at them angrily.

“Mom, how can you say that?” He asked as he squeezed my hand. “I’ve lived! So much, every day, for sixteen years. You make sure of it. You make sure that I live and experience life.” He gestured to the television. “This video is proof!”

I hugged him and held my tears at bay.

“I love you, Mom.”

“I love you, too. So much.” I lost Jasper that night. Quietly, in his sleep. I watch the video of the circus every year on his anniversary. It was on a bright, starry night that the traveling circus rolled into town and I lost my son. And when it’s quiet, I remember.

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