As Bright As I Am:
By: Johnathan Jena
Soft as a whisper in silent slumber, the fog danced across the sky almost hesitating in mid air as if to let the sunlight kiss it for every lingering moment before it would fade into nothing. The air was heavy as trees, atrophied and decayed by the changing of seasons hearkened in the cold which stole away the life from the leaves which once held dear to their green mottled exterior in vanity. Although all seemed lifeless and broken, the coldness and the solemnity of the night kept a secret.
This secret is one which had never before crossed the mind of the pretentious young girl who tugged at her mom's hand, asking almost condescendingly for a drink as they strolled past the lone vendor in the corner of the sprawling, cobble-stone street on which they lived. The girl was not exactly young per say, just nearing her 15th birthday. A time when she expected more than she deserved, more than her mom, who divorced and alone, could really afford to give her. But still, they survived and coped with life.
The girl, named Christina walked briskly at her moms side, the drink she convinced and guilted her mom to purchase haphazardly waiving in her hands. They made their way around a corner, as the single story red brick apartment was prominently displayed in full view in front of them. Christina shivered as the cold wind and the sensation of the frosty, metal railing up the steps to the front door tingled and nipped at her bare hands.
"Turn on the television, will you." the mother said, groaning, tired from carrying the bags from the store, putting them onto the counter. "If only they made these lighter." She said with a lifeless chuckle to herself.
Life was so much harder without much financial support, every day becoming more tedious and monotonous. It was hard for her to hold onto hope at times, although her inexorable love for her daughter kept her alive inside. Her only wish was that she would learn to be more grateful to her and for every moment they had.
Christina was a very gifted writer, and her talents were unnoticed, as she seemed to live in her imaginary world, as she spent most of her time in her room. She had a diary, filled with her torments of every day life as she told romanticized stories of where her mom didn’t have to struggle. The truth was, Christina wasn’t cold-hearted and not appreciative of her mom. But she was upset at herself because she couldn’t seem to help her and only wished that by making her own substituted reality, it could make her real reality just a little bit more bearable.
Christina was always very egotistical and drew a veil of confidence and over-confidence, as she didn’t want to let her mom know how much she was truly hurting inside. The continued belligerence she was displaying was hurting her mom though, and as days went on, she was waiting for a miracle to save them.
Two weeks passed and snow fell like a flood as the blizzard roared like a dragon outside. Just like the fairytales Christina had known, but they were the princesses, and their world around them was the fire (snow)-breathing dragon, his teeth beared, his eyes glaring and relentless to his captives, which they realized as themselves. "Its the storm of the century", the TV box said. "I would advise no one to go out in this weather" "Its very icy and dangerous to be in" the weatherman warned viewers. But as much as she wanted to heed his warning, Christina’s mother could not. Their food was about run out as Christina was cold and shivering in the only blanket she had, which her grandmother gave to her before she passed. She sighed as she turned to her only daughter and child and said in slight remorse, "I’m going to go out to get you food and some more blankets at the market. I will be back soon." "But mom" Christina interrupted, "You heard the weatherman, it’s dangerous and you need to be safe and well." "No, my child" she said humbly, "The only ones safety that I am concerned about is you and a little snow is not going to stop me." With that, she hugged her child as they held each other tight in their embrace their eyes met and they connected their hand held in a heart
As the door closed, Christina’s stomach hit the floor as she got a strange feeling in her stomach. Like something was about to go very, very wrong. Christina pressed her face against the window, her diary in her hand and her nose against the glass as she shouted for her mom, who was already lost in the fury of the storm.
The streets she had known were lost to her as Marie (Christina’s mother), trudged on through the weather. She had known these roads so well, her feet had walked every cobblestone, knowing every one like a friend, but with this blinding veil of white and the stifling sound blaring deep in her eardrums, finding her way anywhere was nearly impossible. The walked across the river brook bridge as the winds howled like a banshee and she shivered, her breathing quickening as she hurried her steps in increasing desperation. “God damn it” she cursed as she almost slipped on a frozen puddle of ice. She regained her balance and hurried on more cautiously as she neared the store, its light gleaming in the distance, cutting through the snow that was all she had come to know before.
Meanwhile, at home, Christina scribbled a message into her diary and retired upstairs to her room in darkness as the moon appeared and she fell into sleep….
“ZZZZZZZ….” Became the sound that filled the room as her dreams drowned out the storm as she lie, safe in her bed, as her mom fought for that same luxury of safety.
Distant… She heard a rumble as Marie looked at the light from the road as to her confusion; two more came to join it. She stood there cold and transfixed and the rumbling grew and out of nowhere the last sound she would hear was the beeping, a warning, just like the weatherman warned, and she wished she listened. It was 8:24 PM as in minutes, flashes of red and blue joined the soft, flooding streetlights of the shop, as the storeowner witnessed the crash and called the police and ambulance. The driver was caught in it all as he hit a patch of black ice and couldn’t steer away from her, couldn’t do a thing…
Unaware of the disaster, Christina lay, cozy and as warm as her blanket allowed in her worn tattered bed. Her dream was dark but then a light flooded and permeated her vision as it made itself known as the moon. She was alone in this dream, cold in a bleak field as she laid staring at the dancing stars and glistening orb of the moon. Then what caught her next was a voice as she gaped, wide eyed at the moon calling her. “As full and bright as I am, this light is not my own. My light is merely reflected from the sun and without it, I would be nothing.” “Crucify your ego before its too late and let your narcissism go.” The moon then faded into two more lights as they came closer and closer and closer as she heard her mom whisper her name….
She awoke then, sweating profusely, and glanced around, weary in the dark and knew something was not right… She instinctively turned on the television as she saw the store and the scene she would never un-see. She couldn’t she her mom there, but see just knew, she just knew. Christina grabbed a pen and wrote desperately into her diary, her tears staining the pages as she took her blanket and the diary and scribbled the last word as she ventured out and ran through the darkness.
In what seemed like forever, she found her way, down the cobblestone road, over the bridge and to the scene displayed like a tragic play before her, emblazoned in the flashes of vivid blue and red against her eyes. She fought through the crowds of people and found her mom, unconscious in the ambulance as she hugged her and sobbed. “Why did I have to want so much from you?” “How could I sleep in comfort while you did all this for me?” She sobbed uncontrollably as she rode in the ambulance into the hospital where doctors waited for signs of amelioration in her condition.
She laid asleep, almost peaceful, eyes somniferous and her body soft upon the white bed in which she lay. The doctors worked for hours as Christina awaited her fate in the waiting room lobby. She clutched her diary and began to write some more, every word the deepest expression of her soul and self. Hours passed seeming as days as Christina lay, eyes heavy with the weight of exhaustion, but still open in hope of a word, or anything to tell her that her mother would be alright.
Christina squinted as the sun hit her face and upon the open book in her hand, with 4 pages ripped out. The sun hit her and filled her with warmth, until a figure in white blocked out the sun; a doctor through the door called to her. “Christina, is it?” She nodded hesitantly as immediately stood up, tucking the book in her left arm close to her. “She not very responsive but we have stabilized her condition enough so you can see her, but we do not know how long we can guarantee you time.” She nodded to his words and smiled for the first time in what felt like forever. She crossed a narrow white-walled hallway and walked silently across the clear almost spotless hard floor until they entered a medium sized bright room where she saw her.
Covered in a sterilized blanket and resting in silence she lay. Christina walked briskly over to her and softly held her hand breathing heavily. “Mom, this is Christina, can you hear me? I love you, I love you, I am so sorry.” She stared into her mother’s eyes as her hands gently grasped hers. “Oh, my dearest angel Christina” she spoke weakly yet with quiet reserved strength and compassion “Do not be sorry my love, I will be alright and you have done nothing wrong.” Christina wept quietly and spoke with guilt guiding her tongue, “But yes I have. If only I hadn’t been so needy, if only could appreciate everything you do and have done for me.” “If only I could make things right, if only I could do as much as you.” She stared into her mother’s eyes as she cursed at the book which housed all of her thoughts she wished she left unwritten. From all of the times she let her selfishness guide her and cloud her from the true importance of the bond they shared. “Don’t fret my child. Nothing could ever make me think less of you. Everyone says things they wish they could take back and everything does things they wish they hadn’t.” She grabbed her daughter’s book and closed it and put it on the windowsill where light shined on half of it. “See dear, even light can shine on the darkest of surfaces. We must embrace both the good things we are thankful for but not discount the unfortunate things. They are make us human and allow us to grow and become better.” “My angel, we are only given one life and its never going to be perfect. I was born in 1961 and I know not when death may come to take me, but all I wish is that I am thankful of what I have done not for myself, but for others in the margin of time we so fleetingly call our own.”
Christina’s eyes widened and she burst into tears. ‘I know the life we are living is not ideal” she continued “But even though we may not have a perfect life, the truest joy is in knowing you have saved a life and inspired others along the way.’ Christina nodded at her mother’s inspiring words and touched the light of the diary and kissed her mother on the cheek and said in regained confidence “I understand and I see now.” “I may be your daughter but you are my sun shining bright upon me, even on my darkest days.” “This light of mine you passed onto me, I am going to let it shine and light our way, and I promise that.” Christina smiled and hugged her as her mom noticed the pages torn out and asked about them. Christina replied to her supplication “Those pages were written on the night you were hit, I tore them out because they did not belong amidst the darkness of the others.” “I have always been a good writer but now I have a reason to believe in myself.” “So I entered them in a young writers contest and wrote about the day when my perception changed and I came to see the light that shone for me all along.”
“This light will always shine for you my angel,” her mother said, her voice gaining strength. “This light is the most beautiful gift that cannot be bought, or sold or touched. This gift, my child, is love.” “It is yours forever to hold with you and it is eternally yours and it will never leave you as long as you believe in it.” They held hands for a few moments in stilled silence, tears running down their faces as the doctor came in. “Doctor?” Christina asked. “When will my mother be able to come home?” The doctor looked in remorse and said “Well, unfortunately, the results of our scans show she has a broken leg, a moderate concussion and internal bleeding, so she might be here for awhile and her surgeries could be very costly, $5,000 or more in fact.” Christina frowned and hugged her mom, as she would stay with her for the next few weeks, every day, traveling to the hospital from her empty house to check on her.
Christina waited and watched as her condition improved and she was put in a cast for her leg but they could not easily get the money for the surgery and their insurance couldn’t cover it. It was 2 ½ weeks from the accident now, and every day seemed more hopeless than the last as the days became colder and she struggled to find food, having to steal and beg the baker for food or take money from her mothers lock box to feed herself and survive the harsh winter.
She turned on the TV and scanned through the channels, finding the local channel and watching it mindlessly as she wrote in her diary and remembered about the pages she tore out. She made her way outside, across the snow-swept yard out into the street and opened the mailbox, which opened with a frosty “clink” of metal. She ran back inside and searched frantically for any sort of hope, but no letters addressed to her were to be found. Dejected, she sat down in the chair in which her mother always used to lay and read her stories as a child, back when her father was there, and back when all of life seemed just that little bit sweeter. Every night before she went to bed she would pray and leave a page of her diary crumpled on the ground in which she had written all of the things and curses she had said about “her mom not being good enough” or “I can’t ever get what I want”. She did this to appease herself and symbolically take back all she wished she could unsay. Every night she did this after she visited her and often in her boredom she would form messages or pictures in the crumpled sheets. She would spell “I LOVE YOU” or draw a heart
Life seemed to fall down around her in growing coldness like the snow, but she still held hope, as it was nearing the time, any day now, when the winner of the contest would be announced or so she hoped. In two days time, a call had come to her that her mom’s condition was worsening. The internal bleeding was clotting and she was at risk of a heart attack. Christina’s world and stomach overturned at this statement and she bolted to the hospital leaving her coat, her fear and her breath behind. She raced through the streets racing time itself now. After all she had done she couldn’t give up like this Christina thought to herself. She’ll make it through, faith will prove loyal, I know this. She passed the bakery where it had all started that night and passed the graveyard and the old brook and made her way past her school, which was on break, to the hospital.
It had been only minutes since she had left her house that she was at her mother’s side again, she had come every day. It seemed so surreal to her. How time chooses this and how suddenly life can be in the clear to in dire need of a savior so fast. Her body didn’t know what to do but cry when she felt the doctors tugging her away and telling her to leave for her mother’s own good. “It’s not fair!!!” “How the hell could you do this to me!!! She’s my mom, she’s ALL I HAVE LEFT WHY THE **** CAN’T YOU SEE THAT!!!” Christina screamed as if her voice was all she had to save her. “Watch your mouth young lady!!” “Shhhh… I know how you feel, everything will be alright” “Now come with me” she heard 3 voices saying loudly at once, her emotions at wit’s end. “No!!!, You could never know what its like… to have to live like me… to have to hurt like me…” “Everything will be okay, we will take good care of her, things will be alright, and you have to trust us.” She had no choice. She kicked and screamed but eventually waited like everyone else and threw her head down into her arms, sulking abysmally. “They don’t know what I’m going through” “All these people talking, on their phones, watching TV around me. How could they even dare to enjoy their pathetic lives when I’m left like this…?” “They don’t care about me or who I am.” She thought in her depression as she tried to lock the world away.
It had been 20 minutes as the sun started to set, the crimson sky in glorious hues so painfully juxtaposed with her emptiness, the Earth almost mocking her sadness and situation. A flicker a light passed through the window, radiating her face, half covering her body, as she heard a voice on the local access TV. “It has been a long time coming, but we are proud to announce the recipients of awards for the 2011-2012 Lakefield Young Writers Contest. She listened acutely, her vision still blocked by the sun. “We will announce the top 3 winners.” The young male voice spoke in anticipation. “In 3rd place, receiving a $1000 prize is Randy Hollister.” He took a pregnant pause, and then continued. “In 2nd place, we have Christina Blake.” She was shocked when her name was called. “The 2nd place winner receives a $2500 prize.” “And in 1st place, we have Eliza Marple who receives $5500 and an honorary framing and reading of their essay at Town Hall.” “Congratulations to all of our winners.” The voice died and Christina couldn’t suppress the elation she was undoubtedly feeling, but she wasn’t good enough. She couldn’t win enough to save her mom, and that would’ve been the greatest prize in the world she thought to herself. She was about to walk around in her lowliest depression yet which outweighed her happiness. Her one chance at saving her, she blew it. Maybe she wasn’t the writer she thought she was.
She was just about to pass the corner out of sight when another doctor in white called her name. “We would like you to come in here sweetie.” Overwhelmed with sadness and anticipating the worst, she held her breath and entered the room where much to her surprise; her mom was awake and alive. “She started to improve slowly after you had left.” “But we didn’t want to invite you back in if we weren’t sure of her condition and if it was stable. She’s on medicine and monitors, but you can talk again if you’d like. “ She held her hand and her mom whispered, “You know my child, we are all so, so proud of you.” “So you heard?” Christina answered. She silently motioned to the small hanging television above her bed and smiled at her, eyes glowing with admiration “Yes dear, we all did. And we couldn’t be more proud of you.” “We?” Christina asked slightly surprised at this usage. “Yes, we as in me, your father, the hospital staff and God.” She smiled lovingly at her daughter. “I told the doctors everything about how you’ve changed and they couldn’t think of anyone else more deserving.” She smiled at Christina, a twinkle in her eyes. “Thank you mom, I can’t thank you enough, but it still wasn’t enough to get you the help you need, to bring you home…” She said, her voice lowering in pitch as she said these last few words. “Ah, but I am with you my dear, so in fact, I am at home, exactly where I belong.” Her hand touched Christina’s face as a sound interrupted Christina’s sobs of amazement and emotion at her mother’s profound words. The loud echo of a telephone pierced the silence as one of the doctors and shocked, they said, “Christina, it’s for you…” Shocked and taken by surprise, she hesitantly took the phone and answered it, her hand shaking.
“Hello” she called to this unknown caller. “Hello.” an older male voice responded, “This is Richard Arkwright, the President of the Lakefield Writers Association, is this Christina Blake?” The voice questioned. “Yes, it is.” She answered, expecting to hear about how she would have to claim her prize or whatnot but what came next stunned her. “After reading your entry, ‘As bright As I Am’, the judges and the people of the town committee were deeply moved and saddened to hear about your mother.” He took a breath and continued. “We never normally do this, but due to the widespread affect of the tragic accident and the circumstances of it all, we find it fitting that we make sure your mom’s medical needs are taken care of expense free.” Christina’s jaw dropped and she started to tear up, taken aback by the selflessness and uncompromised generosity of this organization. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! Words can’t express how much this means to me.” She said in joy and overwhelmed exultation. “Just send us the bill of how it costs maximum of $10,000, and we will see to it that she gets all of the care she needs.” “I wish your mother a speedy recovery and congratulations to you on that remarkable piece of work, you should truly be proud.” “Thank you with all of my heart” she said to him and put down the phone and rushed over to hug her mom. “Awwwwhhhh mom, you will be ok, we will be ok at last.” She proceeded to tell the room of the conversation and when a confirming phone call came to the hospital and they registered it and cleared it with insurance, it was resolved and this miracle was a reality in the making.
“What did I tell you?” Her mom said faithfully. “Never underestimate yourself my child. God works in mysterious ways as does hope and happiness. All of these things may be at times hidden, but are always there, sometimes if even where you least expect to find them.’
In 3 days time, she had her surgery and was later cleared to return to her house with all she needed as a home in her hand and they both walked onto their lawn, which was covered in a fresh bed of show. They both took a breath before entering, but somehow, the Earth seemed clearer and the sky seemed brighter than it was before. “Together, always” Christina’s mom whispered as they turned the doorknob as one to see a splendorous sight. Their neighbors and townspeople who had supported the family of two were all there as was Richard and even a member of the town committee. “Welcome home Marie!!!” They all shouted in joy and applauded as they gathered around her. Stunned and overwhelmed, tears covered Marie’s face as she saw the crumpled notes which now spelt with all of the pages of the past: “MY GUIDING LIGHT, SHINING BRIGHT, THE LIGHT YOU’VE SHONE, THE LOVE, IN HOME.” It was almost unreal that anything like this could ever happen to people like them, but thankfully, this was as real as real could be.
So they hugged each other and smiled wide.
In joyful bliss, in peace reside.
From all the darkness they had known.
A glimmering light so magically shone.
The darkest night seemed holding fast,
But even darkness could never outlast.
The smallest hope, a burning flame.
Which whispers in dreams and calls out your name.
So hold onto these dreams, shining so bright.
And embrace in the darkness, the competency of light.
From the writer:
I hope you all enjoyed the story. It’s very deep and complex although only a few pages in length. It is highly allegorical and has lots of symbolism and juxtaposition in light and dark and in numerical repetition. One thing I do like about it was the motif of light and dark and the number imagery throughout the work. The allusions to the moon and sun as the personification of the moon was interesting but perhaps even more meaning can be attributed to the numbers themselves. All good things happened in twos. The repetition of twos in the two of them, she wins around 2 thousand dollars and a little over 2 weeks after the crash, they get the call and she hears the television announcement. One cool thing that I don’t know if you picked up on was when she was hit; there was one light (symbolic of her wisdom and grace and will alone without her daughter." Then, two lights (of the unrevealed car) join it and this is the only time that two is a bad number but as you recall, she sees it as three (symbolic of the divorce Three lights (husband, mother and child) become two (mother and child) as the lights turn into the car which almost kills her. I hope this small bit of insight can allow you maybe re-read it for even deeper meaning. It is by no means perfect in any way but I invite you to open your minds and see what else you can uncover.