When Michael is brought into the hospital beaten, broken, and in a coma, nurse’s aide Jonesy is immediately drawn to him. Michael’s condition is the result of a hate crime and his parents believe he got what he deserved for being gay. Jonesy knows his limitations, but he sits with Michael, talks to him, reads to him, and encourages him to wake up. Jonesy thinks Michael is beautiful, but he knows that Michael is not his.
Michael is lost in a dark and terrifying place. The only comfort he can find is the sound of Jonesy’s voice. The light he sees calls to him, but if he goes to it he may never be able to find Jonesy. Jonesy will not give up on Michael. Now if Michael will only open his eyes.
This story was originally published as part of an anthology of fairy tale-based stories. Before I Wake is a modern take on Sleeping Beauty, and this is an important distinction to note. This story only works when taken as fairy tale, and in that case, works it most certainly does. There has also been an epilogue added to this newly published version, which adds yet another level to their story and offers perfect closure.
Jonesy is all alone in the world. His aunt raised him from a young age after his parents died and she is now gone as well. He knows he is not the smartest guy, but he is a good man with a great heart. In a short number of pages, we get Jonesy’s story and then the basic facts of Michael’s story as his family threw him out of the house when they found out he was gay. Although his parents are only in one scene, their presence lingers, and they are tough to take. Because the story has a basis of a fairy tale and is not based in reality, we can overlook the quick shift of guardianship and not get too caught up with what is going on with Michael medically. We can appreciate all of the magic that Jonesy offers Michael in world where hope lives. Taken with the fairy tale theme in mind, this is one of the best short stories I have read, and like all fairy tales, you don’t have to guess how it ends.