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Sunday, April 20, 2008

In the First Person

Wishful Thinking
by Adam Hong

I would be lying if I say I remember how my grandmother died. But hearing the story so many times, in so many points of view, I have my take on her death. In all versions, I had something to do with it. In mine, I killed her, not intentionally, of course, because I was barely two years old.

I was born with a cleft lip, a birth defect that had kept my grandmother away for the first twenty months of my life. I was too young to be ashamed of my deformity, but my poor mother was the topic on everybody’s tongue. A month after my surgery to fix the cleft lip, almost two years after I was born, I met my grandmother for the first time. She was hovering her crumbled face over my crib, squinting her clouded eyes at me and introducing me to her ill-fitting dentures. I was sure my freshly stitched lip was the focal point of her attention. She was a seventy-one-year-old woman who was built and looked like a sharpie -- husky, squarish snout, and all skin. As she leaned closer, close enough for me to count her grays sprouting out of her bottomless nostrils, her skin hung forth and dripped off her face like melting wax. Something had dripped off her face, and strung from the split where her lips supposed to be. I let out a horrific scream and defenselessly grabbed hold of the skin from her neck, pulling this liquid dispenser out of my way. She jerked her head back, lost her balance and hit her head against my mother’s dresser. She was in coma for two weeks, and died the day I had the stitches removed from my lip.

That is how I tell this story. My mother, however, has different version each time she recalls the past.

“Don’t underestimate the power of your wishful thinking,” she nodded her head and claimed the death of my grandmother was a direct result from her deep desire for her to drop dead. “Sometimes if you want something bad enough, it will happen. But how it happens is in the Lord’s hands.” Then she continued on to the death of my father in an auto accident, a year after my grandmother’s. “See, my son, when you were born I was only twenty-nine years old, and there already were ten of you. In ten more years there’d be twenty of you. That is a scary thought, isn’t it? So I prayed and prayed hard, praying for my fertility come to an end, for my womb dry out like a desert. I prayed in my sleep. I prayed when your father on top of me. The Old Lord finally granted me my wish, but not without his wicked power. Instead of answering my prayers in the simplest way, he took your father away in an instant. Don’t underestimate the power of your wishful thinking.”

If that is true, mother, I completely understand your motivation.


And that, Wavers, is one helluva 1st person essay by a very talented screenwriter. It starts off with a shocking claim and it segues into some personal, painful truths. That, my dear Wavers, is how it's done. In 500 words, Adam took us on a journey which was relatable and compelling. Great work, Adam!

If you have a completed 500 word 1st person essay or would like to take a crack at it, please submit HERE.

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