By Jennifer Harris
“My child you are chosen whether wrong, whether right,
To find your way, you must aim for the light”.
If you believe that war saves the innocent, then you should not read this story. But if you do, perhaps you can help someone to find their light. This tale separates my life into four seasons – winter, spring, summer and fall.
A lot of people suffer with PTSD; did you know that? I didn’t. It doesn’t even have to be caused by any one particular incident either. Stress can be buried like a worm in your consciousness as you lie helplessly connected to the womb of your mother, your first Earth.
This is where it all began for me.
In a place that was cold and frigid like a winter season, I was nourished for nine tumultuous months. From streams made dark, bitter and lifeless by a mother who poured her contempt for her failures of life into me; I drank daily. Helplessly I suckled until I was born loveless and nameless like the family around me. I grew up without any real knowledge of self, or self-esteem or even a sense of self-identity. I took to wandering from city to city like an orphan. My only possessions were, ‘my boots’ (power), ‘my jacket’ (substance) and ‘my hat’ (knowledge).
Then one day, an unexpected event occurred. I joined the Army.
It was like the beginning of spring for me. For the first time ever, I got a real job. I pushed the buttons on the plane that dropped the bombs on the ground. So, they gave me my first real name ‘Bombs’. I even met my first real friend ‘Bullets’. He fired the machine gun on the plane that killed the people on the ground. We had some good times together. We would be clapping and laughing when we hit the right targets. It turned into the summer season of my life. For the first time ever, I had a family.
But then, like all seasons, change must come. And when it did, it came with an unexpected bang that was so severe that my life stopped its rush to freedom.
Now, I am right back where I started. In a place as dark and unfriendly as my mother’s womb.
Will I ever find the light again?
This is my fall season where my story shall begin.
Special Trauma Housing Units
I knew it was him the way my doorbell rang. Three shrill clanging sounds when it should just be one flat buzzing. I parted the curtains, looked out and saw him standing there waiting and I wasn’t surprised. He wore his dress blues uniform, a broad smile on his face and his eyes looked bright as ever with mischief. I snatched the door open grinning from ear to ear. Then I froze. He had vanished, just like that, gone. I looked all over the neighborhood for him. I had no idea where he took off to, but I knew he would come back. And he did.
Chapter 1: PTSD
It’s funny how you can get to know someone so well that you know exactly what they’re always going to do. They were that predictable. Take my buddy. His nickname is Bullets and my own is Bombs. We did a few stations together with an M16. The man was so good with a gun, he just couldn’t miss anything. We pulled each other out from some real holes in the last few years. Some of them could have been six feet deep, but we made it together.
It’s just that my time is up and I want to go. In a few more days, I can be a full civilian again and I need that in my life. No more bombs, no more bullets, no more blood, just find a beach and lay back. I’ve been trying to explain to him that we can get out together but the man just doesn’t want to talk. He would show up at my front door every night, ring the bell and vanish when I answer it. I’m on my way to talk to my doctor, maybe I’ll get some help for Bullets.
Chapter 2: Doctor Hardy
He was 6 feet 4 inches tall. He wore a khaki uniform and had Captain Bars centered neatly on his shoulders. His office had a wall decorated with plaques of achievements and a window that overlooked the ball park. He could see anyone below him at any time day or night. He was deep in the heart of Base Command and head of the Psych department. It was Monday, 8:00am and he sat behind his big wooden desk ready for work. He opened his window before preparing to look at the manila folder in his hands. Briefly, he looked at the people on the ground before turning to read. For quite some time, he made only sipping sounds from his steaming cup of hot coffee. Then he reached for his phone. It rang once and a woman answered,“Yes Doctor?”
“Is the poem his?”
“His life story in a poem?”
He put the phone down and pushed the intercom to the CCTV in the waiting room.
“Come in Sergeant”.
Chapter 3: My poem
I opened the brass door and walked in with my cap in my hand. The Captain actually stood up, came around the desk and greeted me. He grasped my shoulders with strong hands.“Good of you to come by Sergeant. How are you?”
“How was your treatment?”
“Good. Sit down Sergeant, sit down”. He released me and turned away.
I sat in one of the leather chairs facing him and looking out the window. Captain Hardy sat behind his desk for a moment. He picked up a pen as if to write then put it down and said,
“Sergeant, good soldiers are hard to find and even harder to let go of”.
He opened the manila folder and flipped through a couple pages. He pulled out three and laid them in front of him.
From where I sat I could see he had my poem. My life story. In a flash, I remembered clearly what I wrote and my head bowed slowly. The Captain saw the movement and said firmly,“You are very talented Sergeant. Before I sign off on your discharge papers, I was hoping you would read your poem for me. I understand that it’s from the time of your birth up until now”. He handed the three pages to me and sat back to listen.
“Of course Sir”.
Chapter 4: So I did.
I felt it really like a tightening, a tension,
It was hard to explain even hard to mention,
Of course I was still too young to understand,
I was in her womb, unformed and unplanned.
I was spoiling things for her; her life, her dream,
Her hatred nourished me like a stream,
With no sense of time I just lingered on,
Then in a moment I was born.
She pushed me, pushed me out from her,
I screamed from pain, then, she was a blur,
She relaxed in relief while I started crying,
From then until sixteen I felt like dying.
She spent her time always on her other children,
There was nothing for me; no family, no friend,
I went to her one day as they were talking,
My mind was made up while I was out walking.
"I'm leaving!” I said. I was done being a fool,
My hanging around would just be cruel,
"I'm going into town while the place is still bright".
"You'll find your way," she said, "just aim for the light".
So I did.
I took my boots, I took my jacket and I took my hat,
I headed off to where the city was at,
It was twenty miles by foot away from here,
Nonetheless, I had no doubt that I would get there,
I sheltered by some trees when it started to get dark,
Next day I kept on walking through the park,
After a while I finally entered the town,
When I did I got a job with a man called Brown.
He had a food store so I got something to eat,
I stayed at his house, I didn't live on the street,
He did things for me and I did things for him,
When I turned eighteen I left on a whim,
I took my boots, took my jacket, took my hat and was gone,
I told Mr. Brown that I had to move on.
I followed the street; I had no load to carry,
I didn't look back even when I joined the Army.
Sergeant Stone said, "Go on touch that bomb."
My hand tingled before it went numb.
I felt it really like a tightening, a tension,
It was hard to explain, even hard to mention,
He said, "You'll know when the target is right,"
"Just push the button as you aim for the light."
So I did.
Now they call me ‘Bombs!’ I'm the best they've got,
I've got a friend called 'Bullets' cause his hand is real hot,
He could line ten men up against the tallest wall
And shoot their heads off. We clap when they fall.
When I turned twenty-one my Sergeant pulled me to the side,
They were going on a mission, I was chosen for the ride,
He said, "Your target's a hideout." I hit a school instead,
At the end of the count thirty children were dead,
He said, "We take orders then we follow through,
We shoot bullets, drop bombs there's nothing else we can do."
It happened more than once no one took the blame,
The longer I stayed 'Bombs' became my only name.
'Bullets' was okay he just seemed to settle in,
As the years went by he did everything with a grin.
He said it was, "…his job" to pull the trigger,
I didn't expect he'd kill himself. So, go figure.
He stuck his gun in his mouth and smiled goodbye,
It took years but now I don't even ask why.
They shipped me to a hospital 'cause I couldn't go to sleep,
When they let me out I bought a car that was cheap,
I took my boots, took my jacket, took my hat and took flight,
All I wanted to do was to aim for the light.
Chapter 5: My buddy ‘Bullets’
The room went silent at the last line but the words hung in the air. Captain Hardy sat back as I leaned forward and laid the pages gently on his desk. He picked them up and glanced quickly through the poem then, he raised his head and repeated quietly at me,“Good soldiers are hard to find and even harder to let go of”.
“Bullets was a good soldier”.
“But now we’ve got to let him go correct?”
“You’re a good soldier also Sergeant. I believe that you can let this one go and move on”.
“Very well Sergeant. Your discharge papers are at the front desk, you’re dismissed”.
“Thank you Sir”.
Chapter 6: Discharge
The administrative clerk smiled broadly at me as I signed off for my package. It was almost her quitting time so I asked,
“Going anywhere after work?”
“Take a ride in my car”.
“Sure. Where are we going?”
“Well, we could pick up my buddy Bullets and just aim for the light?”
“Yeah. That’s a plan”.
I walked to the car and sat down to wait for her. I started thinking that I hope Bullets doesn’t mind the extra company for tonight. And I just started laughing because they all think he’s dead but only I know differently.