Last night I had a nightmare. Somehow I remember every detail.
I am standing in a living room with a mother and three boys. I am white and they are black. They are sitting on a sagging couch. On the wall is picture of a teen-ager, who is evidently no longer with them. The room is dark, but I can see the boys, one particularly. He is dressed in bright yellow and looks awkwardly heavy for his age. But when I look more closely, I see he is bundled in several sets of clothing. “Protection from bullets,” I tell myself.
Suddenly the boy in yellow (he couldn’t have been more than six) runs out of the house. It is then that I notice that all the boys are holding plastic handguns. The mother screams and then sobs. Somehow I know that the boy has gone to seek revenge for his brother’s death. Fear soaks the room. I am sick to my stomach, (as I am as I write this).
I run out the house and follow the boy. He tears madly through a surreal neighborhood full of young black men. I lose him in the chaos. I go back and sit with the mother and her two remaining children until the early morning light brightens the room a bit. The boy in the yellow is still not with us. We all know he won’t return.
When I jolt out of sleep and back to reality, my first image is a memory from nearly 20 years ago. My African-American 22-year-old-stepson has been brought to a funeral home in Chicago from a Joliet, Illinois prison where he has died of “unknown causes.” His crime: a car jacking gone wrong and guns fired – when he was 18. We turn as a large metal cart is rolled into the room. He is covered from the chest down, but his face is eerily serene. My husband sags against me.
Dear God, stop the madness!