Vortex of Thought

As the city around me experiences the bone chilling effects of what is known as the polar vortex, my mind spins wildly within a vortex of its own – flashback!

Today, while sat within the confines of my therapist’s office, something bad happened. Something invasive and beyond my control. It all started innocuously enough; first, there was the wailing ambiance of sirens blaring from street level outside the office window. Then, a follow up cry of sirens – a second unit responding. Then, a third… followed by a fourth… By that time, I was well on my way towards a response of my own, although my ambulance was traveling through time, not on the road, and it was not so much an ambulance as it was a mind that carried both the rig and the images of the past. The high-pitched ‘weee-ohhh, weee-ohhh,’ that boasted from the emergency vehicles ignited the fire of memory within me and off I went, following in behind them, all while sitting in an office high above…


When I turned my gaze to look out through the office window, I was met with the nefarious sight of pluming, black smoke, slowly inking its way across the residential skyline. There was a fire, a real one… and a not-so-real one…

The duo of sound and sight caused a rapid and precipitous fall through reality and time downward to the horrid world of memory and experience. I was no longer in an office on a Thursday afternoon – I was responding to a burning residential apartment fire, soon to make contact with a man kissed insidiously by flame and the devil’s breath. I was in flashback…


The smell of burning brick, tar and wall insolation began slithering into my nares with odious potency. They brought with it another invasive and unwelcomed visitor – the smell of burnt flesh, bone, fat and tissue. For those of you whom have never had the undesirable exposure to such a scent, it will be impossible for me to explain with enough detail the specifics that accompany such a putrid odor – for that, I am grateful that I do not possess the skill to bestow that upon you. What I can tell you is that it is unlike anything you could ever think to compare alongside. It is truly a smell all its own. If the Devil was real, and thus had an odor, I guess it might be that…


I began to feel sick to my stomach. I clenched my eyes to shield myself from what was unfolding before me – the thing is, flashbacks are born from behind the eyes – so the detail emerged brighter, fuller and more vehement. The harder I clenched, the more my lashes intertwined and embraced with one another in hopes that this would all just go away, but it didn’t. I just continued my freefall further and further into the past. I got closer to the flames, just as I had done on that day – I was now burning in the flame of rumination and chaos. Flashbacks, they erupt like fire.


I heard a voice, a softly orated tone, an alto of a female’s spoken word – it was doc, my therapist. Her voice broke off a piece of my now wailing mind and gave it the map and compass for home, I started coming back.


Slowly and surely, I returned to the relative warmth of her office and the comfort of the office chairs. My mind was leaving the scene of the past and coming home to the present. Come on brain, you’re off duty now, time to go home… I opened my eyes and through a glass wall of tears I looked up from the floor where my gaze had planted itself, thus allowing for the seeds of trauma and memory to grow. I tore away from the vines of recall. I looked at the kind figure sitting in the chair opposite of mine, I was about to speak when all of a sudden, I felt the skin of my palms begin to slither as if to be holding crusted worms undulating across them. I knew exactly what it was that I was holding… feeling… remembering… and it was not worms…

I sheepishly lowered my head and brow, feeling the click of my eyes descend from one focal point to the next until they rested at the sight of my open palms. I could see soot and blacked skin flaking from my trembling hands – I was remembering the burning man and his sloughing skin. The man I held and carried on that day the world burned. His skin slid from his bones and I was left holding the sleeves of what had been his wrists… I tightened my grip while carrying him, wishing for my fingers to become vice-like, but it was of no use, he continued to slide through my grasp until finally hitting the floor. I was no longer holding him, merely pieces of what were once his… skin…


I felt sick to my stomach all over again. I couldn’t even take an inhaled breath without feeling as though I was ingesting droplets of burnt human. I was suffocating beneath a weighted blanket of the past. The flashback had tied a plastic bag around my head and was completing the task of killing me, or so it felt like.


Doc was eventually able to bring me back to her office and the present. Embarrassment and shame now took over where fear and anguish had left off.


I hate flashbacks. I loathe them, actually. The sirens didn’t stop for some time. They were enough to even cause vexation to Doc as well. Such is life in a city, I guess…


I asked her a pointed question as spoken through pathetic expression and tone;


“Will this ever stop? Will this stop happening to me?” I asked.


“That’s the hope, yes.” She replied.


I won’t lie, I was hoping for a definitive, ‘yes’ followed by, ‘tomorrow,’ but that’s just a fantasy… a really wishful fantasy…

I completed the session but I was spent. I was and am absolutely exhausted. I am now also petrified of closing my eyes – no naps for me…


Flashbacks used to be a motivator of the bar and the bottle. Now, they are merely an adversary and bitter rival. I don’t drink, so, I write… I guess…


Now you know what happened to me today, and back then…


The man died, by the way – the man from the fire – just in case you were left wanting…


I think I am going to finish up writing, grab my jacket and head out for a cold vortex walk… hopefully just a polar one, not ruminative.


Oh, and Sirens, if you’re listening… shut the fuck up for a while, yeah?


The one positive takeaway from today, the one bit of light that I can share with you? I am safe, no longer am I in the fire. Burning has stopped, healing begins… albeit fucking frigidly!


Stay warm everyone.



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