I'm not sure what happened first. Did I know something wasn't right, or did they tell me they had "lost track" of my son? I just remember that the two women standing there behind the flimsy stanchion and rope "gate" looked both unsurprised, and only slightly worried, mostly about losing their jobs, and not about my lost son. My mostly nonverbal, does not come if beckoned, additionally taxed with cerebral palsy, and thus has poor fine motor skills, son. He is beautiful and funny and one of my true loves, but one thing he is not, is a boy who can be left alone.
It's hard to convince people to take it seriously. To lock the gates behind them, ensure the fence has no openings, make sure the dog door is closed. Hard for others to see that a deck with a low railing is really not safe enough, and if you add a chaise lounge next to the rail, so as to make it easier to rest your drink, you've just created a giant step to leap right over. It's hard to explain why just holding his hand in the parking lot does not guarantee safe passage, because he is strong now, and has moves like Houdini, able to twist his hyper mobile arms out of being held.
I'm sure that's what it feels like for him, that he is ever-captive, with no freedom to go about his day as he might choose. No matter how many engaging choices he makes, I can't leave the back gate open to let him explore, I can't sit in my chair on the sand as he walks along the shore. I have, or someone has, or someone should have, a hand on him almost all the time, any time we leave the confines of our house; he is ensnared.
So it's not surprising that he would have escaped under not-too-watchful eyes, and was now wandering in this poorly-lit labyrinth of a building.
I run down the corridor, but I know this is not where he would have gone. He's no fool, and would dart into a smaller walkway as soon as possible to avoid detection. I can see him across the abyss from one viewing station to another, four stories of art and science, and humans below us. I look to find the stairs on my side to head down to the level he's going to, but when I look back across, he has disappeared into a shadow again.
I'm alone in this. I can't get ahold of my husband, my daughter is too young for this responsibility, and yet I ran and left her with the very two people who lost my son. My daughter. I've just left her. I just turned and ran.
The phone in my hand is uselessly filling with voice mails that say, "if you can't handle it, let me know, and I can come help. If you can't handle it..."
It seems I am surrounded by an entire nation of people who do not get it, who walk by, either staring at my plight or avoiding me. No one who can, will help, and those who don't know how, are scared to ask. It's just me in this giant, horrible building where none of the signs make sense, and there are only open tread stairs between floors, and everything is echoey as I run, madly, searching for my son, hoping my daughter will somehow remain safe-enough until I return.
I woke with a clenched jaw and a headache painfully draining any good thoughts I might have had, and as the light seeped between the curtains, I begged the sun to tell me that it was just a dream.
And then I am clearly, fully awake, and I wander to the children's rooms to check on them, even though it is obvious we are not scattered through some other building.
I peek at my daughter lying on top of her covers, flat on her back. She looks like Snow White, with her hair framing her fair face, her ruby lips turned lightly at the corners; she sometimes smiles when she's sleeping, and that seems to make me think her life is pretty good.
My son is equally safe, a tangle of teenager in his extra-long twin bed that is already looking too small for him. His leg is draped over the side, unwound from the covers, looking like a specimen of the perfection of man, with muscle and strength showing even through sleep. His toes are set lightly upon the ground, like a sprinter sets their foot, ready to press off and beat the track down with perseverance.
I sigh at the wonder of them, and try to shake the chill of that unforgiving, other dimension.
I am ever-thankful that it was all a dream, but I realize, even hours later, with both of them safely at school, that I remain a little distanced from the present. I worry that some of that panic, and fear, and anger, some of that shame and threat of loss, I wonder if I carry a bit of those things around all the time, and that is a little unsettling. And I wonder how much of it is manufactured and how much of it is real? What is my business to figure out, and what are things I wish would change in the world around us?
Our every day has a lot of good in it. There's laughter and hard work, and good food, and adventures, and there's movie night and family snuggling. There are friends and family and celebration. So this night, when I sleep, I will push away the dark and dreary, and envision instead our average day, our filled-with-so-many-good-things, average day, and when I close my eyes there will be my Snow White and my young, Strong-man, because the people they are, our little life- it's the stuff that dreams are made of.
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd tow'rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
Shakespeare The Tempest Act 4, scene 1, 148–158