My dad is in the kitchen making coffee, muttering “I wish…” He is thinking about what might’ve been.
My best friend is deciding what to do with his life, but whenever he gets a job interview and feels a little hope, somebody says “no.”
Life doesn’t give us what we want. We try for things, and then it gives us something else. Our will is tossed in the wind, until we feel helpless, and many of us give up. Then we are at the end of our lives, enjoying a cup of coffee and saying, “I wish…”
I went for a walk.
My life wasn’t working out, the way my friend’s life wasn’t working out.
I followed the bike trail, until the path veered off into the bushes. There’s a junk yard there, full of plates and forks.
I always glance at the junk, and never pick-up anything.
This time, I saw a rusted lamp. I picked it up and rubbed it, but nothing happened. I had it in my hand and I wasn’t going to set it down. I was used to disappointment, but I still hoped for a miracle. I walked back home. I wanted to give my dad something fun. Fantasy is about the possibilities of reality that will never happen.
“What do you have there?” He asked.
“Did you rub it?”
“I tried, but it didn’t work.”
“Well, let me give it a try.” He rubbed it and nothing happened.
“What would you wish for?” I asked.
“That’s easy—twelve hookers and a million dollars.”
“Is that what you wish for under your breath?”
“No—I wish for time. I’d go back and live my life on purpose.”
“What does that mean?”
“I wouldn’t want anything, but a will that the world responds to. I wish I didn’t feel powerless.”
I felt like him—and I hated that feeling. If a Genie did come out of the lamp, would I feel better if I was given something? Magic is in the imagination, so I polished the lamp and found some oil for it in my dad’s back garage. I dipped a rag in one end, and lit the other with my mother’s cigarette lighter. It worked. I thought I heard laughing coming from inside, but when the fire went out, I realized it was only my imagination.
My friend was reading the Bible. He liked the verse about the lamp illuminating his path, so I gave him the lamp as a gift.
“Who would you be, if you got everything you wished for?” I asked.
“I’d probably be a monster,” he said. I knew that wasn’t true. My dad on the other hand? Or myself? The apple doesn’t fall far.
Two weeks later, my friend landed a job at Google, and married the love of his life. “That lamp really works!” He said.
“Kinda like a good luck charm?” I asked.
“No—there’s a Genie in there. You just have to light his hair on fire, and he’ll come out.”
“Oh, is that what happens when you light the wick? His head catches on fire?”
“Yes—but not the one you’re thinking of. While his pubes are burning, you offer him water in exchange for a wish. When you get it, you snuff-out the lamp. The same scenario repeats itself when you want to make another wish. He has a lot of burns down there, and a small wick.”
I thought my friend was joking, but things were working-out for him, so I decided to make a wish. I lit the Genie’s pubes on fire and he came out hollering. “Put it out! Put it out!”
“I wish that I had power.”
“Granted,” he said.
Instantly, I felt like a Genie. I could make my own wishes come true. I got a girlfriend, an important job, and made disagreeable people eat their own words. It felt good.
I let my dad try it out and the next day he had twelve hookers and a million dollars.
“Hey—I thought you were only joking about your wish?”
“Well, I wanted to see if it would work, kinda like a test, and when I tried to unwish it, the Genie told me that was against the rules. Now, I have venereal disease, and the hookers are driving me crazy, and the money’s gone.”
“Better light the Genie’s pubes on fire.”
“Do you think that’ll work to get rid of my crabs?”
“I don’t know, but it’s probably safer to wish them away, than to burn-off your own.”
“I wish…” My dad said.