By: Aubrey Glantz
As I looked out of my Pittsburgh window, I watched as a fellow policeman directed traffic to common walkers and vicious drivers. It wasn’t uncommon to hear a cuss word fly from time to time as well as breathe in the smoke that flowed from work shops. I huffed as I sat my head on my folded arms that were dangling out the window. Every day, as I sit and look out from my bed, I dream of a peaceful place with water, with strange animals, and a sight that only one can see once through their entire lifetime.
“Benjamin! Don’t you know that is dangerous to sit out a window like that? Common, I’ve brought you your favorite today; Steak ham, mac and cheese, with a side of broccoli and maybe two cookies!” I yelped and flew ten feet in the air as the shrilling voice frightened me. I turned to see my favorite nurse, Ms. Gwen, carrying a tray filled with food. She is very short women with brunette colored hair that hid under her white nurse cap, with big blue eyes, and a huge heart of love. She just graduated nursing school at the age of twenty-two and decided to work with children.
Ms. Gwen is just like me, only not really. She limps when she walks from her own disease she couldn’t have been saved from; Polio. It never bothers her that she has it, only she embraces it. She reminds me a lot of my mom. I smiled at her and sat back in bed. She set up the tray in front of me while I grabbed my fork and dug in happily. When Ms. Gwen turned to leave and help deliver lunch to the rest of the kids down the hall, I turned my radio on I had near my bed and caught up on the comedian acts of Abbott and Costello. Being able to drown out the world with the fast moving cars and smoky atmosphere was a possibility I appreciated most.
As my mind drifts and wonders with the comedic acts and laughter from the audience, I can’t help but think about the book The Twenty-one Balloons. It was a story of a man who had decided to explore the world in twenty-one balloons and create his own story of adventures. For my birthday, Ms. Gwen gave it to me because she said I reminded her of the protagonist, but for some reason I never decided to read it. I picked it up and looked at the cover and reread the back. I shrugged as I took in the information again and decided why not? Within ten minutes I was hooked and couldn’t put the book down. The book had only 181 pages and wasn’t thick at all. I figured if I could finish it before my parents come to visit me tomorrow, I can tell them something new and exciting for once.
Before I knew it, dinner was being served, but that didn’t stop me from putting the book down. Ms. Gwen walked right in and took in the sight of me finally reading the book she had been pestering me about. She didn’t say anything but gave me a sly smile and a knowing look I knew all too well. I have her sheepish smile and looked away from her eyes and gazed down at the food on my tray, which was now in front of me. Ms. Gwen ruffled my hair and said, “I expect to hear something new tomorrow from you mister.” I nodded and finished the book from where I left off.
When I woke up, it was dark with a hint of light; only shadows I could make out were the recliner, dresser, and radio from the moon. My window was still open blowing a light morning breeze into my room. My book has placed on my nightstand with a bookmark to tell me where I left off. I smiled to myself and thanked God for Ms. Gwen. I grabbed the book , turned my light on the lowest setting it would give me, and drifted off back into another world. I finished not long after that and was bouncing where I sat as Ms. Gwen opened the door. She had a smile on her face and sat in the recliner at the end of my bed. I began to tell her everything I took in. She laughed at how excited I was, but for some reason it never reached her eyes. I didn’t pester her about it knowing it could have been about her boyfriend who was in the air force. Instead I got up out of bed and gave her a hug; she cried but never said a word about what was bothering her.
Later that day, my parents showed up with murky expressions; my mother had red watery eyes while my father looked everywhere but at me. I jumped out of bed and gave my mother a hug. “Mom, You won’t believe what I just read! Ms. Gwen gave me a book to read and I just finished it! It was the best story I have read since the stack of books you lent me from the library….” I went on and on about the book before the doctor showed up in my room shortly. He cleared his throat to announce his presence and looked at me with a sorrow expression. “Benjamin, even though today is visiting day from your parents, we have decided to go ahead and discuss your treatments and exams with you today instead of next week. Now before you become a bottle of nerves, we need you to understand we have tried everything we can do as a hospital and crew to help.”
Doctor Lowe tuned his head sideways and I could see the rim of his eyes become watery. I looked at my parents who both were looking down at the floor, holding my hands with their shaky ones. “Benjamin, son, you don’t have much time. The treatments were going through at a time, but now, your body just refuses to take them. I’m so sorry. I will leave you in here to catch up.” He turned shortly from where he stood and closed the door behind him quietly. I couldn’t see anything; everything I saw I couldn’t put a shape or a color together.
********************************** Ms. Gwen*******************************
The breeze blew lightly around my face, wiping my bangs around, as the tears stung my eyes and ran down my cheeks. Benjamin died two months later after that fateful meeting with Dr. Lowe. I came to see him every day and spent the hours I could with him when his parents weren’t around. He was a strong and brave little boy who took my heart and soul as he left us. I wrote to my boyfriend-who is in the air force-about Benjamin and his story. He too found it heartbreaking and wished he could have met him.
We were all gathered on a hill for Benjamin’s funeral; but with a twist. As we said our goodbyes to the boy in the casket, and listened to the sermon give a speech about the young boy and his tragic death, I could only hope Benjamin finds his peaceful place now. We lifted the now closed casket into the sky with the help of a crane, into the basket where he will stay in an air balloon-just like the one in the story. I watched as they set the balloon free into the sky. I looked up and watched him float higher as each second passed. I put my hand on my lips and let the silent tears escape from my tired eyes. As the balloon began to disappear over the hill, I said my prayers for that one faithful balloon to never land and peace.