Jay pedaled his bike around and around the block. There was nothing else to do. Everyone from school was either not available or was taking a trip. Jay was thinking very hard about one particular thing. Not a thing, actually, it was a person. He was thinking about his mother.
His mother had died only one year ago, when Jay was twelve. Now he was thirteen. Jay parked his bike in front of his house and sat on the curb. Something had been puzzling him for a long time. A few weeks before he had turned thirteen, he started having a dream. The same dream over and over again, and it was still coming to him. In the dream there was a beautiful woman with wavy auburn hair and kind, calm blue eyes. Jay’s mother. Then she would say three words, “Listen to it,” as if she was answering a question that Jay had asked. Listen to what? That was what had been bothering him.
“You OK?” Jay whirled around. His father had come out of the house. Jay realized his cheeks were wet. He hadn’t noticed he was crying.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” he answered.
“All right.” His father disappeared into the open garage. He was used to Jay being sad a lot. Outside, Jay stood up. He mounted his bike and took off up the street.
* * *
“Listen to it.”
Again. The same dream. His mother smiled, then faded away. Jay woke up. He looked at his alarm clock. It was 12:45. He closed his eyes but didn’t fall asleep.
* * *
Jay pedaled down to the end of his street, turned left up the street, right up another street, then left again. He was at the park. Jay rode his bike up to the bench that he usually sat on by the big pond, but it was occupied, so he walked his bike further down to the very edge of the pond. He propped his bike up with the kickstand and flopped down onto the hard dirt. He looked out over the pond. It was expansive, and it got pretty deep in the middle. Jay’s mother had loved this pond. She would go there whenever she could. She had told Jay that it calmed her to look out over the water and see the big white swans swimming around and around.
There were also ducks at the pond, but compared to the swans, they looked like little toys. As Jay sat there at the edge of the water, he had the same feeling his mother had described to him. It was wonderful. Jay looked again at the swans. He noticed one in particular. It was bigger than the other ones. More beautiful, too. It held its elegant white head high and swam gracefully and slowly around the pond as if it were showing its elegance off just for him.
Jay suddenly had an urge to name it. Something important. Sasha. It was his mother’s name. Perfect. Swans had been his mother’s favorite animal. Sasha turned and looked at Jay.
“Are you Jay?” Jay turned around. No one was there. The swan was staring straight at him. He gasped. Sasha was talking to him. The silent way, where you don’t talk out loud. The words just come to you.
“Uh… yeah, I’m Jay.”
“Of course you are. My son.” Jay was not confused at all. Now he understood. His dream. “Listen to it, Jay.” Listen to the swan. He just knew it. The swan glided closer and as Jay looked into its eyes, he saw a woman. Auburn hair, blue eyes, nice smile. His mother nodded.
* * *
Jay stood up and took a step closer to the water. The swan was still coming closer, but it wasn’t a swan anymore. Not to Jay, at least. It was his mother. The other people in the park (which was only four or five other people) saw only a swan. Jay didn’t even notice any other people, though. He was somewhere else. Somewhere with his mother. It was like all his favorite things mixed into one, but much, much more powerful. His mother was right there. The picture was so vivid and clear, he could almost touch her. He was reaching, reaching…
Jay fell hard on the ground. He tried to lift his head up, but he was way too dizzy. He lay back down. Finally, the dizziness subsided and Jay looked around. He was back at the park. The same ordinary park. A swan glided up and stopped. Jay looked at it and smiled. His mother waved from the swan’s eyes. “I’ll be here, Jay, whenever you need me.” Jay waved back and the swan swam off onto the pond.
* * *
Jay never forgot that feeling and the picture of his mom waving from the swan’s eyes as long as he lived, though he could never quite describe it. He had really needed his mother, and she had made him feel stronger. He had many more dreams about his mother, but never any “Listen to it” dreams. Always nice dreams, where she would give him advice or just plain talk to him.
In some ways, Sasha could still be alive.