In Harper’s favorite book, a talking donkey finds a magic pebble and makes the wrong wish. He needs to avoid a hungry lion. “I wish I were a rock!” And then he sits there, “stone-dumb,” for a year.
Sometimes I know what to wish for. I wish for this job and a billion dollars. I wish to be done with whatever it is that I am writing, oh my G-d please can I finish? I wish for it to be good.
I wish for ten days with fresh-squeezed piña coladas and a walkway over the water and circus school for Harper with round-the-clock drop-in hours and a spa and midnight room service. With hot dogs.
I wish for sleep.
I wish for whiter teeth, and for my hair never to go grey. But now I can feel the monkey’s paw, lurking. What if I wish never to look older than right now? I don’t wish to be freakish, to watch those I love shrivel around me. No, I wish to age gracefully. Which means what? I wish to be spared the blind rage that my mother feels at the injustice of sagging flesh, at the very suggestion of change anywhere on her body? It’s as if she thinks of aging like the chicken pox. It’s not that common anymore, it won’t happen to me.
I wish for escape. I wish for total change. I wish for ten days of zazen medition at Green Gulch in Muir Beach, more than ten days, I wish to shave my head and wear their dark robes and chew their black kale and feel if not enlightenment then peace. Lasting peace. Or maybe I wish for new clothes, specifically some red mules like the ones I wore all over Boston and Rio before they disintegrated and I finally lost track of them somewhere in Bolivia. I still miss those shoes. Maybe I just wish for those shoes back.
I wish for focus.
I wish for forward momentum, the feeling of progress that is neither recursive nor obliterating, that does not erase what went before.
At the end of the book, they lock the magic pebble in a safe.