My Father's Dream

My Father's Dream

            I stand overlooking the city, and I wonder where you are.  You, who my father loved so much that he would have died for you – and in a sense, I believe he did.  He certainly would never have blinked at trading his life for your own.  I remember how he looked at you, then, all those years past.  His eyes held the unconditional love of a father for a son; his smile was forever forgiving of anything you might have done.  Oh, he loved you.  He loved you more than he could ever have loved any of his own children.

            But I never have begrudged you that love, simply for the fact that you loved him as well, in ways that none of us ever could have.  You, too, loved him unconditionally, with none of the political ins and outs that we grew up to know.  You very nearly did give your life for him, I remember, more than once.  Unflinchingly, you stared the gods in the face and dared fate to take you instead…oh, and I remember looking down upon you as you lay so limply upon that bed, fighting blood loss and fever, struggling to survive through those unsurvivable wounds.  I remember watching him hold you, too, while you fought, and realizing only then what you meant to my father.  Some despised you for the place you held in his heart, but not I.

            Then again, though, I knew your past, and I knew that he was the only father you had ever known.  I knew that each of you filled an unbreachable chasm in the other's soul, and provided a type of love only the other could need.  There was nothing and everything simple about your love for one another; you were simply the son he could not have, while he was the father you had never had.  Did you ever realize, before the end, how he wished you were his son?  Did he ever tell you that, or did you merely realize it upon his death?  I hope you did, for I know how you needed to hear that.

            "Father…" You whispered that to his dead form, but did you ever say that in life?  I hope you did… My father was never nearly so lost as you, but I think you both found kinship in the fact that each of you was missing so much in your lives.  So, I hope then, that he knew what I do, knew how much he meant to you.  Others could see it in your eyes, how you nearly worshiped him for his very humanity, but my father could be so dense at times… If he did not know in the beginning, I pray that you told him before the end.

            In the end, I think life ironic as well.  You, who never believed in anything before Rome – him – died for his dream.  As I said, I know your past, though not nearly so well as he did.  Even now, though, the depth of your feelings surprises me, when I met you the second time, deep in Proximo's Gladiator school.  Revenge was no longer on your mind; no, once more you believed in a dream that I knew, then, you might have to die for.  No, I think I knew what would happen even then.  Although I realized that I loved you, I held no hope… Somehow, I knew it was too late.   Silly me, though, I thought it was merely too late for our love – I never thought it would be too late for you to live.

            Did you have to die for them, Maximus?  Was I simply an idiot for not telling you what I felt and not making it worth your while to live?  I always thought that ours was a precious love, too all encompassing to be denied – even when we hated one another – but maybe I was wrong.  Or who am I fooling, anyway?  If my father's dream was not enough to save your life, my love could never be enough.  You loved her, Maximus, and I never begrudged her that… Or maybe I did.

            But it was only because I never really did stop loving you.  My father and I were alike in that way, too, amongst others, some of which do not speak so well of us.  But we both saw you, not for what you were, but for what you could have been.  You were a great man, Maximus; oh, but you could have been greater. 

            He wanted you for his heir, Maximus.  Did you know that?  My father never said as much in so many words, but I know he wanted you.  You were not merely the executor of his dream – you were his dream.  Marcus Aurelius Antoninus was the fifth in a line of adopted emperors.  I am sure he wanted you to be the sixth, though it was something you would never have desired, much less asked for.  But you would have been great.

            Sometimes I wonder if it were I, and not my brother, who killed his dream.  Commodus certainly sent the blade home, but I think that I set him up for the strike.  Years ago, I could have married you.  We might have been happy, too – I certainly think that we would have.  And I know that you loved me, then, all those years ago…but that is hardly the point.  Had I not been such a fool, and we had married, Commodus would never have been able to do what he did to you.  You would have been too well known, and too powerful, for him to touch…and then you would have never known the pain he put you through.  I would have spared you that, Maximus, if nothing else.  As it was, all I did was doom my father's dream.

            He would have loved to call you family; I only think he was afraid to adopt you – not afraid of public upheaval, but of your feelings, and your past.  My father always tried so hard not to hurt you by loving you too much; I don't think he realized that his love saved your life at least once.  He certainly never saw what I did, then, or he would have known that you'd never fear calling him father.

            "Father…"  I never saw you cry, but I thought you would break down that day.  If only anyone had known sooner what I know now – life might have been so very different, then.  Maybe my father would not yet be dead.  You, certainly, would not be.

            And my father's dream would never have died beside you on the arena sand.