I like the dark. There is something tangible about the shroud of darkness that comforts my heart. Light illuminates my scars, and I don’t like my scars. The torn visage of my soul isn’t for the weak of heart.
The rain that falls onto the tin that covers the pavilion sounds like a heavy machine gun burning through ammunition non-stop. The rain brings memories, those that I wish I could forget.
“Except my memories are full of dead bodies. And torn flesh. And the screams of those in pain. Yeah, there’s no comfort in that hellish landscape.”
Puddles form from the deluge; little splashes of mud fly up onto the wooden floor. I like pavilions. The round shape with the cone roof, not to mention the wooden benches, just somehow seem right.
I sit on the corner of the bench and watch the rain. There is something comforting about the rain as well. In the distance, Dr. Tiffany, Tiff to her friends, walks to the pavilion.
“Hey, Freeman. How are you? Are you ready to talk?”
She sits across from me. Tiffany meets my eyes, and I nod. What is it about psychologists and eye contact?
“Sure, Doc. What’s on your mind?”
“What’s on yours?”
We stare at each other. I have been her patient for four years. She knows I need time to find the words that describe what I feel, so she patiently waits for me to speak.
“I keep seeing the bodies. I dread going to sleep at night.”
She leans forward, her eyes bore into mine. She seems to be searching for a clue to what I am feeling.
“Where are you when you dream? Fallujah?”
“No. I am at BIAP.”
A silence falls over the pavilion trapping us with our own thoughts momentarily. I stare at the floor.
“Is there a specific moment that you dream of, Freeman?”
“Yeah. I am on a hill overlooking Baghdad. Down below us is one of Saddam’s palaces. I…”
Tiffany watches my face; her eyes never leave me. She waits for me to continue. A tear forms in my right eye.
“I wake up one morning, and the ground below us is white. From where I was, I thought it was pure snow. Mind you, it was just after Ramadan, so it’s possible.”
“Is it snow?”
“No ma’am,” I said softly. “it isn’t snow. I went to the palace at the invitation of my Sergeant. From the hill, I can see it has a massive pond behind the palace. As I make my way down the hill, I see that it’s not snow. It’s lime. Every step I take brings me closer to what I now recognize as bodies.”
My eyes can’t hold back the tears. The rain hasn’t let up. I weep silently for a few moments, and then I take a deep breath.
“There are rows of bodies. Each step I take cracks the lime that covers their faces. There are a few males in the rows of carnage. The majority of the bodies are female, in various ranges of age, and I can feel my stomach turn over. I am the father of daughters, Tiffany. Why can’t I get over this dream? Why do I see them?”
She shakes her head and shrugs her thin shoulders. Her eyes are wet from tears that haven’t been shed yet.
“You have gone through a horrible ordeal. Trauma scars us. Our minds can only process so much horror. You have to let it go, Freeman. You can’t keep holding it in your heart.”
As if letting go of the trauma was that easy.
“Did you go into Saddam’s palace?”
“What was it like inside?”
“It was opulent. The palace had marble floors, ivory pillars, and gold toilets. His personal guard had gold AK-47s and weapon magazines. It was the complete opposite of the horror in his backyard.”
She and I both stare at the floor. After a moment of silence, she looks at her watch. I know that my session is almost over.
“Are you okay?”
“I feel as if I tore open my scars, and now I am vulnerable.”
“You’re okay. This is natural. Take some time and process what you have said today.”
We say goodbye and I watch her walk through the rain. I feel empty. I have got the horror out of my system. It seems I am finally free of this specific memory. Then again, I might have set my demon free to stomp around. It that’s the case, I will cause even more damage to my psyche.
I guess I will know tonight.