Despite the significance of her name in the Hindu religion, dreams never really sat well with Maya. In fact, the more she attempted to ingest, the more frequently she choked. Her throat burned and blistered every time she tried to swallow another new idea.
Yet this never stopped her father from trying to force another dream down her throat. He would make her stay at the table until she cleaned her plate. He took no excuses. Never mind she just really wanted to watch her favorite cartoon show on television, read her story book (she liked that one about Disney Princesses), or perhaps even work on her homework – anything was preferable to trying to swallow down yet another dry and lifeless dream, and all dreams are lifeless, or at least it seemed that way.
But on this night, her father promised something different. He brought her a dish of greenery. Out of this sea of green, a lotus flower bloomed. A man walked towards her. He stepped lightly across the soft petals.
This man was tan and well-muscled. When he looked at her, a shy dimpled smile cut across his face. A glimpse of white teeth and pink gums. She was hungry. She pinched him. She lifted him. She opened her mouth.
He screamed, and she salivated. She began to chew. She chomped and chomped until his screaming ceased. A line of reddish spittle and blood dribbled from the corner of her mouth.
“Delicious!” she said with a smile. Then she tried to swallow. “Water!” she cried with her cheeks puffed out. The lump of dream lodged itself against her hard palate.
Her father smiled and poured her a glass of water. It was clean and clear. She took the glass eagerly and poured the contents into her mouth. She could not swallow.
She gagged and coughed. A tiny arm landed on the white table cloth and left dots of blood as it bounced. She coughed again, and a small leg landed in her mother’s dinner glass. It swirled in the pinkish hues of her plum wine. Her mother scowled at her.
Maya wanted to say she was sorry, but all she could manage was another cough. A tiny head struck the tabletop with a small thud and rolled away like a misshapen marble.
Maya’s face turned red. She broke out in hives. It became impossible to breath.
“I’ll get the Benadryl,” her mother said with a sigh. “Seriously, honey, why do you keep trying?”
Maya’s father shook his head and sat down heavily in the massive wooden chair at the head of his family’s table. “Because we are what we are.”
“But just because we are what we are doesn’t mean that she has to be.”
He nodded his head. “But we’ve been this way for so long.”
“Times change. People change.” Maya’s mother stole a glance in her daughter’s direction.
Maya grabbed her napkin and began spitting up the gory mess inside her mouth. She dared not look at either of her parents.
Maya’s mother looked back to the father. “Everything changes. Roles change.”
“But we are the unchanging.”
“Nothing is unchanging.”
“Then, who will destroy the dreams?”
Maya’s mother left the room and returned with a cup full of Benadryl. Maya hated the way the medicine tasted. It burned her already sore throat on the way down.
Once the hives receded, once her breathing was easier, Maya asked, “Can I be excused now?”
Her mother gave her a sad smile. “Sure, dear. Clean up your room before bed, okay?”
“Yes, mother. And father?”
He looked up at her. “Hmm?” A forkful of naked young women were impaled on the tines of his fork. They screamed.
Maya had to shout to be heard over their screams. “Father, I think I know the answer.”
“The answer to what, dear?” Her mother smiled at her from across the table.
“You know, his question. About who will destroy the dreams.” She paused and looked at the lavish dishes spread out across the table. “If you just give them time, dreams have a way of destroying themselves, don’t they?”
Her father shrugged, said “Maybe,” and stuck his fork back into the bloody rose on his plate. A chorus of tiny young women screamed. “Who knows?” he said over their terrified cries. He looked off into the distance and started to chew. The screams soon ceased.
Feeling ashamed, knowing she could never meet her father’s lofty expectations, Maya turned away.