The breath is so loud. She almost believes it is someone running to catch up rather than her own ragged breathing. Her brain berates her and she doesn’t have the time to stop and go through the necessary steps to calm it. No time to take four controlling breaths. No time to write what she fears so her mind can be clear—to work solutions rather than only seeing defeat. Not even a minute to close her eyes. Instead she listens as the litany begins.
If you worked out this wouldn’t be so hard.
If you lost weight you’d be a better mom.
If you had been a better mom you wouldn’t be here.
You will fail.
She won’t be able to depend on you getting there.
Grace ran anyway. Her granddaughter was wrapped and snuggled on her chest. She was carrying a car seat and had a backpack strapped on behind. It had been a race since the call came. Jasmine was in the hospital.
Jasmine was a gift. She arrived into their family Thanksgiving twelve years prior. A beauty with a smile that lifted everyone if given the opportunity to bask in its bright joy. Chocolate eyes and straight black hair that hung to her waist. A warrior. A picture of grace that you would find standing on a mountain peak, wind billowing those beautiful tresses to full power.
Grace relaxed into her seat and thought about what she could have done differently as the monotonous, useless announcements by the flight attendances droned on.
Jasmine started slipping away soon after puberty. She slipped from Grace’s arms into the enticing arms of social media. The changes were small, but noticeable. No more nights watching movies. No more sitting together on the sofa. Fighting occasionally then daily that what Grace saw was the truth. And no, not just because she was her mom. The lies of influencers raced to take her away.
Selfies were the rage. Duck face and sexy thirteen year olds competed to get the most likes. Magazine lies about weight and beauty became the bible Jasmine studied. Her smile faded. Her hair lost its shine. Marijuana took her clarity. Each tied in their challenge to bind her to them and further from my reach.
She moves her granddaughter to the car seat as the plane levels at 10,000 feet. Looking out the window Grace sees smooth white clouds blanket the land keeping its secrets from view. She knew how it felt to watch a child blanket herself until she lost herself into the obscurity of what she felt she could never be.
Clouds were their thing. Something Grace and Jasmine could still spend a few minutes guessing what they formed. Could we find the ones the other described without pointing it out. Hours on the tramp or grass together staring into the clouds dreaming of what could be.
Grace feels her fear descend along with the plane. The fear lands, and causes, a lot of turbulence in her stomach. She unbuckles and wraps Caitlyn into her chest again. The doors open and anxiety grows as it seems forever before she could exit. When free from the crush of people Grace rushes out the door, sprinting past the baggage claim. She claims the first taxi she sees in a rush and knows she will have to double back for luggage—later.
Jasmine was an amazing runner. Beautiful strides, great breath control, and eyes locked on the finish line. The new finish line didn’t have an end. She could never attain the right amount of beauty, weight loss, perfection that was bought at a grocery store.
Grace arrives at the Clinic and witnesses the oxygen being lifted from her child’s perfect face. Tears slowly begin to move, struggling, held back, pressing forward and then released fully to run down her own face. The once beautiful soul had found a course she wasn’t meant to run. Holding Caitlyn close against her chest, Grace held her little girl’s hand noting her own alabaster skin in contrast to the beautiful brown skin that used to squeeze her hand so tight and tell her everything she dreamed about and saw in the clouds. Her race was run. Lifting Jasmine’s wrist to her lips Graces tears and love landed on the semi-colon that both believed would help her win.