Click the green hyperlink to view the exact interview on YouTube: Soldier’s Story.
I just finished watching a documentary chronicling a soldier’s experiences during the War in Iraq. Sgt. T.W. of the 101st Airborne Division recounts an experience when his platoon comes under mortar fire inside the courtyard of their Forward Operating Base. The blast knocks Sgt. T.W. on top of a fellow soldier, Barnes, the platoon’s Radio Operator. While both men absorb shrapnel, T.W. stands up with only mild injuries; but Barnes takes a more direct hit & subsequently endures multiple surgeries & years of rehabilitation afterwards. When a reporter asks T.W. why it was Barnes & not him when both soldiers stood only feet apart, the sergeant explains simply: “There’s no rhyme or reason to it . . . if you spend too much time thinking about it, you’ll go insane.”
While the once popular AMC original series “The Walking Dead (TWD)” is fiction, I don’t consider it irreverent to relate a serious moment in the drama to a serious moment in real life. After all, I’ve always believed that fiction mirrors reality because we who create fiction do so to make sense of our real world experiences. In Season 4 of “TWD”, the eye-patched Governor with his one good eye finds himself with a small group of other survivors as they celebrate their good fortune to be some of the last men standing on earth. When the group asks the Governor how he’s managed to stay alive, he responds cryptically, “It’s best not to think of it.” In this moment, the Governor sounds like a true veteran of a real war & not just a character on TV.
Although I’ve never been a soldier myself, I often perceive life as one continuous war; one challenge after another; a series of endless battles. We conquer one challenge to celebrate briefly only to proceed inevitably to the next challenge. Most of the time it’s not life & death; & even when it is, for most of us, our life & death experiences don’t involve mortar fire or unexploded IEDs. Still, even for those of us who are fortunate enough to live the life of a civilian a world away from any formal warzone, peace is often difficult to find. For me, I feel as if there’s an emotional war raging in my head.
I’ve suffered from insomnia for most of my life. If I don’t fall asleep in that first hour, I’m just as likely not to sleep at all than to find even a brief respite from my life’s deepest regrets & unanswered questions. I was a humanities major in college & have always been the analytical type. My interests lie in literature, history, religion, & psychology instead of math & science.
The following material is a fictional account made to appear like the narrator’s private thoughts–for dramatic effect only.
Why didn’t I supplement my Bachelor’s of Arts with more business-related courses? Why was I so afraid to fail? Why did I mismanage this or that opportunity? And, although it may sound trite compared to soldiers lamenting war, lately I can’t seem to stop asking myself:
“Why did she pick him over me?”
I’m moving soon. So I’m going through my personal effects, labeling boxes, & the like. I came across some pictures from my younger days. It just so happens these photos span several years & include me with many of my ex-lovers. I looked so young & clueless–cheerful & funny, yes–but so skinny! And so presumably weak! I remember thinking back then that while I could attract the pretty girls from time to time, I rarely felt capable of protecting them. In the back of my mind, I always knew that if I ever were to graduate to the status of “head of household,” I’d have to toughen up into a fierce guardian. I always assumed that when it didn’t work out, it was because she would leave me for a man she considered to be a better protector.
But now that I’ve much more visceral with years in the weight room & numerous trips to the Golden Corral, I appear much more proficient in that role. And yet, it seems as if more girls liked me better back then; back when I was cheerful but outwardly weak.
But, at least the good girls would understand. And that’s exactly what Lorraine was. She was the absolute good girl; she was the incorruptible one. Lorraine was the exact type of modest beauty that would reward fidelity with fidelity & find security not in overwhelming size alone but in the knowledge that a man who loved her enough would do anything to protect her.
I treasured her. But all she did with my gift of friendship was treat it like worthless trash. I thought she was a woman of substance–someone who cared about the why behind the action. But somehow, she chose that fat, hulking, colossal pile of meat-head garbage over someone who cared. I hope she never finds happiness! She doesn’t deserve to ever be loved. EVER! She deserves to feel the pain that she caused me. She deserves to stay up late at night; staring at the ceiling in a dark room, asking herself “What if?”
That soldier from Iraq was right. One of the most aggravating heartbreaks I’d ever experienced prior to Lorraine occurred while I was unemployed. A supporting friend warned me, “An idle mind is the Devil’s playground. So find something to do or you’ll drive yourself crazy.” And although I have something to do now, Lorrain’s descent into depravity still haunts me. The Governor was right. “It’s best not to think of it.” How can a fictional character from a TV show know so much more about grieving than I do? How could his one eye be better than my two?
I don’t have that answer. I’m only concerned with what I need to do right now. I’ll start with this. It’s still early afternoon & the sun is out. But tonight when it’s dark, I’ll close both eyes & block everything out. I’ll rest easy & tomorrow morning, I’ll focus just on what I have to do for that day. I’ll keep both my eyes & still manage to find peace somehow. Whether soldier or civilian, we are all casualties of life anyway. We all carry some scar of our past struggles; whether that be a missing eye or damaged limb. In my case, I carry the shards of glass from a broken dream named Lorraine. For now, I’ll have to find consolation in knowing that one day I’ll be over her. I’ll conquer this overwhelming disappointment the same way I m’ve gotten over all the rest; celebrate briefly; than move on to the next challenge. Because that’s what life is. It’s one battle after another. It’s . . .
one continuous emotional war.
And I’m locked & loaded.