The ringing in my ears sounds like a nest of angry hornets buzzing about. I shake to clear my head, and with the back of my hand I wipe away the blood from my nose. “Hey Freeman! You alright?”
I can’t hear anything. Rough hands grab my shoulders and shake me. I look up.
“Can you man the fifty?” Doc points at the crew serve weapon and simulates firing it. I feel wetness on the back of my hand. I look at it, there is no blood on it. Instead of blood, there is a clear fluid wetting my hand.
I force my mouth open and my ears pop.
“Yeah, I got the fifty.”
“Well come on then. We have to get out of here.”
18 months later:
“Back in the sand. Why didn’t I get out when I had the chance?”
Following a brief train up I find myself back in the Middle East. The burning hot sand, the smell of this godforsaken country, everything about the Middle East sucks in my opinion. My brown t-shirt turns grey, an indicator my body is losing salt. To stay hydrated, I consume liter upon liter of water.
“Sergeant, are you in here?”
“Why is your room so dark?”
Hot fingers of pain cross my head, my eyes hurt as if I am staring directly into the sun.
“Where are you?”
“In the corner by the wall locker,”
“I’ve got a headache, help me up.”
“Ok, where are we going?”
“To the doctor. I have got to have some relief.”
Waves of pain wash over me, as my friend helps me to my feet. Dizzy, I lean on the wall locker for support. I grab my weapon, ammo and assault pack. “You can’t be too prepared.” The bus stop is nothing more than a row of seats protected by a concrete barrier. The sun is slowly descending in the west, but the sweltering heat causes my head to ache even more. Finally, the bus arrives and takes us to the medical station. A pile of paperwork must be filled out prior to being seen by a doctor. After completing the pre-requisites, I am finally seen by a LT. Colonel.
“On a scale of 1-10 what is your pain?”
“How often do you get these headaches?”
“Every day it seems, probably 4 days a week.”
“Are you hydrating?”
“I drink 2-3 liters of water a day, not to mention coffee.”
“Well, up your water intake. If the pain continues, we will try something else. I am going to give you some 800mg ibuprofen to ease the pain.”
“That’s it? You ask a couple of questions and give me some pills? No tests?”
“This is a war zone; you need to suck it up and get back to the war.”
“Roger sir, the war will be there when no one else will.”
I had no idea how prophetic these words were.
Seven years later:
“I hate you!”
I ascend the stairs to my bedroom. “Another day, another headache.” My eyes ache from the pain of my headache. “It feels like someone has driven a chisel into my head and is attempting to pry my head open.” I shut my blinds, turn off the lights and lay on the futon. I would pray but it has been so long since I last felt the presence of God. I don’t have the faith to believe He would hear me. A solitary tear runs down my cheek as I realize, I am lost.
“Why can’t I do anything right? Why is everything falling apart?”
Silence is my answer. I have never felt so alone.
5 November 2019