Die Trying – Excerpt

I had a life. A goal.

2012 was supposed to be my year. I planned to stand on the winner’s podium at the Olympics. For five years I spent every morning in the water, sun, rain or snow. People all over Chicago’s south side were proud of Juvon Stewart. I promised my parents they’d see their son standing tall and proud with a gold medal around his neck and the Stars and Stripes playing at the London Aquatic Centre. Two years ago I was approaching the top of my game, staring at college scholarship offers and preparing to be crowned the greatest African American swimmer ever, beating even the great Sabir Muhammed. 
Only the universe ended first.
In those days my alarm sounded at six a. m. five days a week so I could do a few laps before school. Weekends I didn’t have to get up until seven. Most mornings my parents came to the pool with me and remained to watch before heading for work. After my morning swim, I’d head for classes, then rush back to the pool for my official practice with my coach. He promised I’d get at least three Olympic medals. I called him a pessimist. After that it was home for dinner, where I could eat as much as I wanted, stuffing my face with Mom’s cooking to make my muscles grow. Then homework. Mom insisted, saying “Your brain is still important, young man.”
My brain.

That’s what’s killing me.