I won! I won? Really? I re-entered the numbers from the slip of paper in my hand. I clicked the “Search” button. According to the Powerball website, I was the winner. I had just won forty-one million dollars. I felt light-headed. The corners of my vision started to turn fuzzy and grayish. I reminded myself that breathing was going to be crucial for continued consciousness.
Okay. Deep breath. I won? I won! First realization: I don’t have to work. What am I going to do now? The question came quickly. The answer came just as quickly as the question: I’m going to write. I am going to write.
The other details started crowding in about making sure my kids were taken care of and paying off my brother’s house and buying my parents a place in Gulf Shores. Sure, I was going to take care of my family but throughout the random “taking care of folks” thoughts, my brain’s town crier was waving a flag and shouting, “I’m going to write! I’m going to write!” I don’t know if I was more excited about winning $41 million or having the freedom to write.
Winning the lottery meant that I would be able to devote my time and energy to the activity that brings me joy. I called my parents. After repeatedly telling them that I was not joking, that I had really won, they told me they were on their way to my house. My daughter was in the front yard with her boyfriend. I went out and told them the good news. We jumped up and down in our excitement. They came back into the house with me and I showed them the proof of my incredible luck. Still, not believing what was right in front of me, I entered the numbers again. There was no doubt. I had entered the winning numbers.
I realized I had other numbers on the slip of paper and thought to myself, “What the hell, I’ll check these, too.” I entered the second line of numbers, clicked on the search button and waited. What? This isn’t possible. This just isn’t possible. Twice? I won twice? Fuzzy. Gray. Breathe, woman! Breathe! Forty-three million dollars? This, on top of the forty-one million I’d already won? I checked the third line. Winner. The fourth. Also, a winner. The fifth? Indeed, that one was also a winner. They were all winning numbers. They were all winning numbers. Slowly, mortifyingly, the light began to come on in my head. Winning numbers. I looked at the slip of paper again. Sure enough, right there, on the slip of paper, it said, “Winning Numbers.” Apparently, I’d picked up a print-out of the recent winning numbers. This wasn’t my lottery ticket.
I wasn’t a winner. I was an idiot. I was an idiot who wished she could crawl under the floor and die of embarrassment. Despite hair follicles that exude golden strands, I’m usually pretty damned smart. This, however, was The Ultimate Blonde Moment of All Time. I like making people laugh. I like bringing joy to others. This wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.
It’s been seven years since I “won” the lottery. The story is still bringing joy to my family and making them laugh. What that experience taught me, even more than some much needed humility, was that what I love is writing. I will write.
I still occasionally buy lottery tickets. I don’t pick up print-outs of the winning numbers.
I will write.