I woke up, like any other night, in a bed full of nightmares, drenched in sweat that stuck coldly to my skin, as a reminder of the dreams I couldn’t escape. The dream was so vivid, I felt it physically burn on my cheek. I wondered if the sting from the slap was worse simply because her eyes held no remorse, not an ounce of respect.
“Fight for it! You had a chance, you were supposed to protect me!” Her words seemed to keep my mind in a relentless and frightening captivity, and I just wanted to shake their grip loose.
Demands, demands, demands. One right after the other. I cringed once, blinked twice, took in three deep breaths, and repeated that process four times. I looked at the alarm clock beside my bed, and the blinking red numbers informed me it was only four thirty in the morning.
“John?” I had heard the stirring beside me but I couldn’t allow myself to look, not after finishing with my routine. But my darling knew and she respected that. Once I went through the last repetition, with a gentle touch, she wrapped her arms around me and pressed in close. She held me close, as though to help me remember reality and so I wasn’t driven up a wall by another night interrupted by a restless mind.
“You’re safe,” she whispered, the words didn’t strike a chord until she spoke them again. That’s usually how it happened: my ears would hear the assurance, but for some reason, I couldn’t process them. “Was it your sister again?” She asked, and even in the dark, I could see the concern that clouded her features. The eagerness to help and the desperation to understand seemed to furrowed her eyebrows together in determination, but the tragic knowledge that there was not much she could do shoved her lips into a frown, making her look frail.
“Yes,” I sighed, hating that my night terrors were doing this to her. “Even being far away, she follows me. Do you see how frustrating that is? I tried… but I… failed… how could I fail?” I noticed my heart rate pick up and beat violently, I saw the memories of a year ago begin to play out vividly in front of me, as though I stood there again, front row to my mistakes. And although I could feel my wife’s hand grip my own, and her words trying to beckon me back to our bedroom, I couldn’t return. I was back in the large dusty room where my mind decided to finally break.
A court room full of a jury with the same condition: glued eyes and closed ears set on what they were told, not on what was true. It was routine and it was my job to change their minds. To present a diagnosis and pray they understood and accepted the terms and conditions for an antidote. Yes, I fought for the criminal, but they had to see that not everyone is evil. Some are accused, some are innocent. I had fought on the side of the defendants for years, each case I won boosted my confidence and set me apart from the other defense attorneys, to a point that thousands of potential clients sought me out. However, this case was different. This case was too personal and cracked my peace of mind. But I took it nonetheless, because how do you ignore a plea from family? How do you think you'll lose? My sister sat there, her leg jittering and eyes raced between me, the judge, and the jury. I could feel the fear that exuded from her and that fear was contagious. It threw me off, SHE threw me off!