Tennessee Fantasy

“I used to spend my nights out in a barroom. Liquor was the only love I’ve ever known. But you rescued me from reachin’ for the bottom. And brought me back from being too far gone…” This is the opening of a favorite song of mine: Tennessee Whiskey. (I’ve enclosed a link at the bottom of this post.)


I bring this up because I feel it is a good segue to tell you about a fleeting thought I sometimes have. You see, I have found myself on many a night, sometimes consecutively, grazing my fingers along the well-worn surface of a barroom countertop. In doing that, my fractured mind and aching soul tend to wander. I stare through the countertop of the bar, through to the floor below and beyond. I pierce through the cement and the cellar, past the earth and dirt, all the way to the other side. To the place where memories come from. I sit alone while doing this. I am always alone. Alone and surrounded by everyone. I pluck memories from the oceans of pain, cast them into my bottle, ruminate a bit and then swallow. It is a practice designed at providing relief from the anguish. It is also a practice in futility…


The thought I have is of a woman. A woman of no description. A woman who see’s me from across the bar. She floats like poetry around the other patrons until she is right next to me. She looks into my eyes when I look up to meet her inquisitively, and she instantly knows all of my pain. My eyes tell her everything. Each wrinkle a story. Stories of death, loss, failure and hopelessness. Upon learning that, she understands the ‘why’ of the bottle in my hand – to numb it all. To dull the unremitting ache inside of me. And instead of judging me through apathetic tone, she looks right at me, right into my eyes and she tells me that everything will be okay. The dead will one day rest, and I will be okay… She saves me before I’m too far gone…



But that’s a fantasy. A fable of fabrication from the wishful side of a wounded mind. The reality is I sit alone. There is no savior. Only me, a beer that bleeds condensation over my fingers, and the dead. I sit with the dead. The boy that hung himself. I could not save him. The man with half a head after rolling his truck many times over. I had no chance at saving him. The burned bodies that had been kissed by fire. Although I breathed them in, I could not breathe life back into them. They died too. There was the girl in the tub with slits to her wrists and the one that hung herself in the shower. The people who overdosed and the people who shot themselves, they all sit with me. Leaving very little room for anyone else.


Next month is an anniversary of when a brother-in-arms was killed in Afghanistan. Lately I have been dreaming of him. I walk nearer to him. He is lain within a casket dawned in his dress green’s. I can feel myself wanting to pull away, but I can’t. I just keep walking ever-closer towards him just as I had done that day… Soon, I am stood overtop of a lifeless friend, brother, soldier. My lungs fill with air in preparation to rage. I begin screaming. “WHY!? WHY!? WHY, GOD, WHY!?” That’s usually how I wake-up, screaming… I never wake to answers, only questions. And a thirst to numb it all.


The fantasy is nice. The reality is real. And in the real it is just me, the pain, and the stories behind my eyes. There is no woman. Not now, and not in reality. There was, once… but she was as apathetic as the absence of one.


My therapist and I speak often about fantasy versus reality and why it is important to stay within the here and now. I understand her sentiment as what she says is solid. And I do try my very best to remain in the here and now, but sometimes it’s not that simple. For me, my here and now can be invaded by another. They call these: flashbacks. I could be waiting in line, making breakfast, or stood beneath a shower, it doesn’t matter, my mind takes me back to a place where trauma lives. The irony? In those moments there is nothing more real than the manipulation of the here and now… An echo is not your voice, but it is…


I hope you can see why the fantasy is so appealing in the face of my realities. It’s a comforting thought that someone could care so much that they look beyond all of it and see right to me. Just, me and my wounds. Their empathy becomes bandages. Their love is healing. It’s a nice fantasy to have. No?


I will always have PTSD. It’s not one of those things that just goes away. It’s a wound now, but I’m hoping it can fade to scar later on. That one-day living won’t hurt so much. Is that fantasy? Or reality? Hard to say. But it’s something.


I don’t think I will discard of that faceless woman in the bar. It’s a comforting thought to have. Although it can make me a little sad too…


Fantasy is okay. As long as you remember reality. And trust me, I am in no danger of forgetting the realness of mine…


To me, that woman, void of any features will remain as sweet as strawberry wine within my mind. Her empathy intoxicating. Her kindness will be smooth. As smooth as say… a Tennessee Whiskey. I may not find her in a bar, or at all. But maybe, just maybe and more importantly, I will find myself outside of one… And that’s a thought that’s as warm as a glass of brandy, isn’t it?


Or is that just continued fantasy? Reality? Maybe it’s one until it becomes the other? … Hard to say, but it’s something…


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