I spent the greater part of last night standing beneath an ocean of stars. Staring out at the twinkling expanse, trying to humble myself. I had hoped that by fleeing the covers of bed to stand under a sabled night sky, I would find perspective on the things that plagued me. But I was left wanting… The answers I sought were not written among the nictations. Nowhere out there in the infinite desolation was my solace, but there I stood, alone, lugubrious and weighted by a hopeless wish—to just be normal—I have wished that wish upon many a star… it has remained unanswered, through to this day… right through to this moment as I write this.
When I speak of “normal,” I am doing so with pointed subjectivity. I would not dare relegate nor conflate anyone else to my set of circumstances or ideals. That being said, I am a freak! A god damn anomalistic eyesore. I have been in therapy for almost 3 years now, and I am still unable to stop the precipitous will of dissociation. I could be at a coffee shop, a grocery store, a mall, Christ, even a fucking red light, and somehow, someway, my twisted labyrinth of a brain will find a way to forgo time and space only to conjure the past into present. At the culmination of those moments, I am at times left coughing, coughing because I am choking on smoke that is not there. Other times I am heaving, because my body wants to vomit. Why? Because no matter how innocuous my present surroundings may be, my mind has forced a recall of decaying bodies, tin laden blood, and urine… urine from the boy…
Those of you who have read my blog or my book will know very well of who the boy is… and that is all I am going to say of him, here.
The other night, I was with my girlfriend. We had been cordially invited to a gathering over at one of her closest friend’s place. It was to be a conclave (amidst our current global situation) of friends and their kids. With the summer rapidly drawing to a close, congregations such as these are dwindling.
I was nervous as this was to be my meet and greet with some of my girlfriend’s closest cohorts. Their first chance to gaze upon the mysterious stranger that had captured the attention of their dear friend. With this in my mind, I felt a shackle of obligation to go and put forth my best effort. After all, I really care for this woman, and I needed her friends to see that, so that the next time we all get together, they can do so with ease and comfort.
When we first arrived, I observed a small speckling of people littered throughout the backyard of Sheena’s friend’s place; no less than 7, including kids. As we navigated the pebble stricken driveway I was met with a flurry of sounds, sights and smells. They all hit me like right hooks. My senses were all so heightened by this time, that everything sounded like alarm bells. There were zealous children running from front of house to the back, chortling and talking over one another. I could hear each of their excited footfalls smack against the pavement and trundle over the grass. They moved with unpredictable haste in and around the stationary adults. As we entered further into the gathering. I knew that my time to converse was imminent, and thus demanded a well rehearsed smile and quietude from within. Over the years, I have gotten used to fabricating a smile and facsimile of normalcy when in situations where I am disintegrating inside. Truth be told, I think it was the only way I survived in my last years of work as a paramedic.
The first person I was introduced to, was a lovely young blonde woman by the name of, Meagan. She had a kindness in her voice and a warmth in her stance. And though I was able to recognize these specificities about her, I was in fervent battle with my wounded mind. The longer I maintained polite eye contact with her while introductions played out, the more her features faded and the more my minds eye painted likeness of another blonde whom I had once met—a dead girl—her ghastly physiognomy began to replace that of Meagan’s, so I would instead turn my gaze downward and stare at the grass poking up from the ground.
I survived that encounter with likely only minimal oddities observable from those around me. It did however shake me enough that my ability to fake contentedness had diminished in its efficacy. I know that because I was now struggling to carry on a conversation with anyone around me. Steven, the husband of Sheena’s best friend, was seated beside me for much of the evening, and did his very best to bring me into the conversation, but my throat was so dry that even the physical act of forming words was near impossible. I would stammer and stumble over spoken syllables, which only added to the introspective awareness that I was out of sorts and weird.
By the time the night had reached its peak momentum, there were no less than 18 bodies present, in and around the large backyard fire. I tried to focus on the flame, listening to the wood lament within the scorch. But even that was pulling me into places I dare not when around this many people. It seemed that every single movement and sound was there to engender horror of lived experience within me. And the worst part… I couldn’t say anything to anyone… not even Sheena. I mean, how could I? How do I explain to someone—my girlfriend especially—that the red light saber sword that one of the kids was wielding reminded me of the flashing lights of an ambulance? And that when I first observed it through the dark, I thought it really was an ambulance, bringing the sting of diesel to my nose. Or how do I share that the little boy, cute as a button, running around with his flickering light up shoes reminded me of a cop car that was parked on the side of the road, the night I had to see a drunk driver with his head caved in. A driver I dubbed: The Pumpkin Man…
How could I possibly open my mouth and say any of those things in a way that makes sense, or doesn’t make me sound like an insane person?!
I would eventually tell her of these things, but that would not be until the next morning, a morning where I was awake to greet everyone because I had not slept a single wink all night after getting home from the party. Instead, I was up all evening, casting forlorn gapes toward a night sky, in search of some peace from internal beratement. A peace that did not come, and has yet to show…
I cried that night. Standing on the balcony of my girlfriend’s place. Just standing there, cold, clammy and alone. I even closed my eyes and heard myself call for my mum… a plea destined to go unanswered.
I know these are just symptoms and that I shouldn’t castigate myself for being afflicted by them, but I do. Self-flagellation is one of my stronger qualities. I do not say that boastfully.
I am really not sure of what the answer is… I know simplicity dictates that I just inform someone of what I am feeling in those moments, but how do I do that without sounding like I should be committed somewhere. I mean, in environments where everyone is laughing and enjoying their surroundings, I am the guy at the party seeing dead people and hearing ambulances… there is no good way to approach that.
I have been told that things will get better. That as I continue through the peregrination of therapy, I will find more stability and less intrusion from the ghosts that linger. And I am hopeful that one day this assurance will come to fruition. But, until then, you can catch me alone some nights, just standing beneath the vastness of nothingness and everything, wishing upon a star, I wish I may, I wish I might… find some peace… even if just for a night.