If it doesn’t seem too forward, could I buy you a drink? The champagne, perhaps… something golden, to match your hair. Oh, of course — the whole bottle. The sky’s the limit, tonight. I can’t give you the stars, but I can give you jewels enough to rival the stars.
Really. I have a genie in a bottle. I’ve got two wishes left.
The first was the courage to talk to you.
There, you laughed. That’s good, right? I haven’t done this too often.
Wait, don’t tell me your name. Let me guess. Let’s see… I think… yes… Emily?
You just look like an Emily, that’s all. It’s a beautiful name. A poet’s name. “The heart asks pleasure first…”
Yes, it does have a bittersweet ending. It’s like life that way.
I’m sorry, Emily. Please don’t look sad.
I messed up, didn’t I? I told you I’m not very good at this. Here, I have something for you —
Just put it around your neck, here; like this. Yes. You wear them well.
Of course they’re real. You could go scratch the bathroom mirror if you want. I’ll wait.
No, it’s no fun putting it to the test, is it? Always better to leave a little mystery. Would it matter? Imagination can transform anything.
You look beautiful in them, and that’s what counts.
Anyway, that’s two wishes down.
What should we do with my last one?
Save the world? Does it need saving? From what? I can’t make people not act like people, Emily. Anything within my power to undo, they’d just do all over again. I’ve been around long enough to know that. No, it’s better this way. We can’t save the world, but we can make a little corner of it better.
Have I mentioned you look quite elegant?
The genie? You can find them, if you know where to look. Places like… hospitals, for instance. Or hospices… they live there, in the long-term and terminal wings. Quiet places, where their voices can be heard. Places where people have a need for wishes.
There are limits, though. Life itself is a process of limits. Conjuring diamonds is easy; life is much harder. People resist the pull away from transcendence, from that obscure horizon.
But we can try. That, too, is a definition of life.
And when all else fails, we can at least make the process easier. “And then release from pain,” as the other Emily would have said.
If you like, I can show you the bottle.
Oh, it’s not here. I don’t carry it around with me. It’s back at my apartment.
No, not far, just a few blocks. I walk past this place every day, although this is the first time I’ve been in here.
Would you mind if I took your arm as we walked?
What? Oh, thank you. I bought it for the view, though it feels like I’m never here. Always something to do. Would you care for a glass of wine? I prefer the red; the health benefits, of course, but also the complexity.
So, we were talking about last wishes. I have one in mind, but I think I might try this one on my own. Or maybe it’s still covered under the first wish; I’m not sure.
Would you mind very much if I kissed you?
He rose before morning, kissed her once more as she lay sleeping. She smiled and curled onto her side. He moved away from her, then; as he did, his legs dissolved into bluish smoke, his garments ashes and silk, jewels woven through the thick black hair that coiled down his back, contrasting her lack of it, a wig by her bedside to hide the scars of chemotherapy. Tubes ran from her arms up to intravenous drip bags; her chest rose and fell fitfully, in restless starts and stops. As he watched, her pulse and blood pressure began to drop, and he knew she would not be awakening.
He became a haze then, twisting in the breeze from the hospital’s ventilation system. He was blown onto a high shelf, into a green plastic bottle whose label was also the Greek word for dream. He lay there waiting, in a shadowed corner that was halfway between fantasy and reality, where imagination provided a comfort that was its own form of magic.
Don Raymond lives in the tiny hamlet of Alturas, CA, where he works as an accountant at the local casino, which is not a career path his counselors had ever mentioned to him. He spends his free time mediating the Machiavellian feline politics of his household. You can read more of his work at Bourbon Penn, The Molotov Cocktail, and Architrave Press. He also once didn’t make a left turn at Albuquerque.
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