It was only a dream. Just something my mind conjured up. The thing is, it hurt just the same. Last night it took me away to a place and time where Ryan was whole again. His compassion and intelligence were restored and shined around him like an aura. It lit up the room (which was a hospital room). He asked me to put my arms around him and hold him tight, like he did just months before his voice was beaten out of him.
His big, brown eyes looked into mine. I could see the wisdom in them. I wondered if, perhaps, the past two-and-a-half years were just a nightmare and I mercifully awoke. I purposely dismissed that we were in the hospital until he asked me for the keys to the Jeep. I had to tell him the state revoked his license due to unrecoverable brain injury (which they did). I told him he is uninsurable as a driver (which he is). I told him he must wait at least two years and then be cleared by a neurologist before he could retake his driver’s test (which is true). He cried. I cried with him and watch the brightness fade from his aura until it went dark gray.
When I look back into his eyes, the wisdom was no longer there. It returned to the blank stare that I know entirely too well. The eyes unfocused, looking through everything. He asked, “Who could do this to me?” and his aura went black. Gone. It went up in a puff of smoke that dissipated on the room’s drop-ceiling. I watched it leave and thought I could see Ryan looking down on me and himself.
I pleaded with him to come back. I promised him that he could drive the Jeep and to hell with the DMV and their laws.
Looking up, I saw Austin Vantrease and Jonathan May (the two men criminally convicted in the beating), both in orange jumpsuits and some hieroglyphic-looking symbol burned into their foreheads, looking in the window. They were grinning. I jumped to my feet and…
Like in my dream, I was on my feet and ready to defend Ryan.
I was confused. The room was no longer in a hospital, but hospital-like nonetheless. I knew I had been dreaming, but had to concentrate to make sure I still wasn’t. It’s that brief period where we reconcile our realm of existence. I sat back down and wiped the tears from my eyes. Yes, I was crying in both Dreamland and Real Land.
Not knowing what else to do, I put a pair of car keys in Ryan’s hand.
As an aside, when Ryan asked me (in my dream) who could do this to him I remember wondering how to answer him. Yes, I thought of these people as a gang of thugs, animals, and monsters (and even more harsh opinions). But, I wondered if I would somehow be accountable for expressing my opinions and characterizations.
I questioned if a grieving father is denied this personal expression, or anyone… for that matter. Is there some established time limit on disdain? Must I always place an asterisk on all I say and write denoting “this is my opinion” or would others simply know this, given the context?
My dreams are always filled with sub-plots, it seems. I guess it just shows that it’s crazy what issues people can dream up!