I was working with Ryan and noticed the shirt he had on. It was from a trip we took when he was being heavily recruited to play college baseball. He has many of these shirts, but this trip was special. We flew to Las Vegas the summer before his senior year of high school. We stayed nights at the Hard Rock Hotel —just a stone’s throw away from the UNLV campus — and spent the days on the ball diamond.
I remember every detail about this trip we spent together. Mostly because this is where he told me he didn’t want to play baseball in college. I respected and supported his decision. He wanted to have a different college experience than sports. He wanted those four years to focus on education and the social life. I admired him for this choice. He clearly had given it much thought.
We flew out on my birthday (June 25th) and Delta promptly lost my luggage (which was found two days later). Ryan thought this was just hilarious that all his baseball gear, that I watched go up the conveyer just after my luggage, was delivered while mine was lost. Really, I don’t even know how it was possible, since it was a non-stop flight. Anyhow, I was laundering the clothes off my back in the bathtub each night with hotel shampoo.
Back to now… I was reliving this story with Ryan (I talk to him all the time). Then, without my mind giving me any fair warning, I said “I’d give up all my tomorrows for just one of those days. Ryan, I’d do it for any yesterday.” I reflected on what just came out of my mouth. Would I really?
Yes, I decided, I most certainly would.
Is there really any tomorrows left for Ryan (or me)? Sure, the sun will rise and set, the earth will spin on it’s axis, and the Chicago Cubs will not win a World Series. These, you can bet a paycheck on. But, I’m talking about living… not life. Like I said some time back, life is so much more than a beating heart.
I could feel the anger swell and I practically ran into the next room. I cursed myself — to hell with saying “Fuddruckin”, I let the mother-of-all-words fly freely and frequently — for breaking my own Golden Rule. I brought this grief upon myself by not living in the moment. I was hurting. Bad. The tears confirmed that. Here I was, once again, feeling the emptiness and despair that is always present, but now magnified.
I had to stand up for myself… against myself. I begin rationalizing that it is just peachy-keen to have this out-of-control tantrum. How could I fault myself for feeling this way?
Then, I looked back at Ryan and was drawn to him.
I looked into his bloodshot eyes and leaned in closely, planting a kiss on his forehead. I could feel his warm, soft breath on my face. His eyes didn’t follow me. They maintained a distance gaze. Although I was smack-dab in his face, his eyes seemed to be looking at something far beyond me. Perhaps miles away. As though he could see right through me. There was no recognition. No acknowledgement. It was if I were invisible.
Where are you, Ryan?, I wondered. Do you have memories? Do you dream? Do you know who I am? Are you sad? Scared? Why, of all the seven-billion people on the earth, did Austin Vantrease and Jonathan May cross you that night? Why did they ever have to be born? What diseased sperm and egg created this evil? How long did it take to teach them that their “manhood” would be defined by how many defenseless people’s lives they can ruin? Ryan, will you ever come back to us? I miss you.
Ryan continued his unfocused gaze beyond me.
Yes, these were my questions to consider. Questions without answers. Like thirst in the middle of the ocean. Hunger surrounded by tainted, rotting meat. Needs that will never be met. Wants unsatisfied.
Is this hell? What do we do to deserve this?[poll id=”61″]