By the doorway of the free kitchen, I passed old people in their twilight, huddled in torn coats they probably got free from the Salvation Army. There was energy in the air, the electric announcement of an oncoming storm. Black clouds were like phantoms rattling chains of thunder. As if the sky above were sewn together with the thread of the everyday nightmare of the inner city below, it split at the seams. The falling sheets of rain wrapped around rusted sculptures on the square. Holding a newspaper above my head to ward off the falling water, I slipped down the stairs to the basement of the run-down apartment building I stayed in. My home was dark. The very filth on the walls seemed to produce another layer of shadow.
Losing my father was an abstraction until now. I’ve sent my share of heartfelt sympathy cards to friends whose parents passed away, but only now is it possible to prepare for my own inevitable grief. I am confronted with a nightmarish scenario: My dad is in a nursing home, bedbound, blind, dying a slow lonely death due to congestive heart failure and complications of diabetes, but I can’t be there with him. I can’t hold his hand to comfort him or play CD’s of his favorite Beethoven symphonies. I can’t listen to him recount the stories I’ve heard him tell a million times or laugh at his corny jokes as I had always planned. Why not? Because I am too ill to travel cross-country due to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. Even a brief phone call with him exhausts me.
“I like raw sugar sprinkled on my nipples,” Heather said, smiling, her lips glistening with maple syrup from her pancakes.
Her voice matched her name, subtle flowers covering a hillside. Her last name was Honeysuckle and her perfume scented the air around her like the flowers in spring. She took another bite of pancakes and chewed.
"The Persistent Demons of War: A Personal Story of Prolonged PTSD"
Forty years have passed since my deployment as a combat Marine to Vietnam, but only several years since I acknowledged my inability to continue suppressing the demons alone. Like many veterans, the demons have haunted me through nightmares, altered personas, and hidden fears. While many veterans are able to manage the demons’ successfully, millions barely survive in destitution, solitude and social disconnection. Scores believe that conceding to the demons’ hold would make them a coward. Countless live in denial and loneliness on order to protect their warrior’s pride. The most vulnerable— tormented by guilt and feeling alone — too often choose to end their lives.