So my new shrink thinks I have PTSD, and I don’t know if she’s right or not, but I do know that if I have it, the Army didn’t give it to me.  I was good at being a soldier because constantly scanning the horizon and imagining the worst-case scenario and thinking tactically was already second nature to me.  Anyway, this most recent bout of therapy has me thinking about the Army a good bit lately, and pulling out some old tidbits from the “writing fodder” folder to polish up. This one isn’t polished yet, and this one does in fact have an epilogue that it didn’t have when I originally sketched it out in 2008.  But “what really happened” isn’t really the point anyway, not in stories, and not in trauma either.  I have this gigantic complicated theory about trauma and about PTSD being an illness of time and it involves Tim O’Brien and Emily Dickinson and Deleuze and Guattari and it’s probably utter trash.  But I do remain convinced that the exact order of events, the exact details, isn’t finally the important part when you’re talking about the kind of story or event that can shape, or end, or save, or change, a life.  What matters is that the story makes you feel, that it interrupts and reroutes temporality and touches something from another time and space – and it makes that something irrupt into the supposedly seamless surface of the this/now and makes things go inside out a little bit. So it’s alright that this story is (now, due to a different type of irruption of time/space) not (any longer) exactly true.


At my last duty assignment, I had one of those completely punishable-by-UCMJ love affairs that I tended towards. It wasn’t so much that I hooked up with people you couldn’t take home to mom as much as people you just couldn’t take to the battalion Christmas party and introduce to the Command Sergeant Major. The reasons were varied, but it was almost always something that would get me into a world of fucking trouble one way or the other.  All the best ones were like that, anyway.

At any rate, there was a Serious Intense Partnership that lasted a couple of months during the Germany era.  It was one of those only-ever-going-to-be-for-now things, as he was on orders to go back to the States on terminal leave and I had access to him because his wife said somebody needed to make him eat while she was Stateside looking for a place for them to live. (He was not entirely happy about getting out of the Army and she knew that too, but with his injuries he really needed to be a civilian sooner rather than later.)  She knew what was up – she knew if she wanted to talk to him at 2 am he would be at my place, not in the dorms.  We’d babysat each other’s kids and were friends, but there had been no hooking up until those last couple of months.  Anyway, they had rules, and one of the rules was no kissing.  So that was very, very strange.  Never before in my life had I had sex with someone that I hadn’t kissed, that I wasn’t allowed to kiss.  Quite frustrating.  I adored him.  I don’t know if I loved him like *that,* but I loved him.  We had great fun running around and going places and eating Chinese food and doing rituals and seeing a total solar eclipse in the middle of the workday (he’d tried to tell the detachment commander we needed the afternoon off for religious reasons, but no dice) and sending naughty though cryptic messages to each other via Department of Defense communications systems (he had been one of those Airborne Ranger types before he fucked his knee up for good and had to reclass, and was our unit’s communications/computer guy).  I’ve always thought I could have loved him, like *that,* given time, maybe not much time at all – it was one of those rare things, those right away things, one of the few “can’t keep my hands off you” things that wasn’t completely and totally destructive.  We stayed up too late talking every night.  We told each other everything, I mean *everything.*  I told him stuff I don’t think I’ve told anybody since.

He was a good guy.  He fed my daughter spaghetti-o’s and played catch with her and brought her ice cream.  She adored him.  He gave me a backrub when I came back from a PT test at which I’d toasted the rest of the unit on the 2 mile run and subsequently cramped up because I was dehydrated; I wouldn’t have touched my sweaty ass with a ten foot pole, but he didn’t care.  He brought me nice German beer even though he didn’t drink.  He came by with our favorite fried rice or pizza.  He went out and spent the better part of a day hunting down the perfect piece of wood for a wand that I decided I had to make that weekend.  He argued with me about magick.  We did a very creative version of the Mass of the Phoenix together.  He stepped back when I got in my weird moods and had to make a 6×6 foot collage of a giant fish RIGHT THEN with leftover National Geographics.  God, I adored him.  It was the most intense thing that never blew up, you know?

Needless to say, the “can’t kiss” turned into a huge weird thing.  I spent all day thinking about kissing him, because of course I couldn’t.  I tortured us both almost-but-not-quite kissing him.  I wanted to kiss him more than I wanted anything else in the entire fucking world right then.  His wife would call and ask how he was, and I would say “He’s ok, seems a little sad this weekend, but ok,” and I would think, “I really want to kiss your husband.”  She would call and ask if he was eating, and I would say, “He wouldn’t eat anything but rice yesterday, but he did eat a plateful of that,” and think, “I really want to kiss your husband.”  She would ask how he’d been sleeping and I’d say “Pretty well,” which I was in a position to know because I was lying awake all night next to him thinking about kissing him.  I’d spend half the night kissing every square inch of him and veering away from his mouth always at the last minute.  I thought if I didn’t kiss him soon I was going to eat him instead, alive, raw.  It was nuts.

I was mostly not sad; I genuinely liked his wife and their son, I completely respected him and wanted more than anything to see him happy, and I had no intentions of pulling any head game shit. But the last couple of days before he left I started feeling a little sorry for myself and getting to realize what it was going to feel like when he was gone.  It was going to feel *bad.*  It was especially weird because I’d spent all those years, years before, not giving a shit about people’s other relationships and pretty much just swooping in and taking what I wanted, taking stuff that wasn’t mine, and being a pretty big bitch about it sometimes too.  I was playing by the rules here and it was really, really starting to hurt, bad.  And I was thinking how funny it was that I probably really deserved it and how sad it was that here was this perfect person and it couldn’t be anything more than this.  And he was going back to the States to be with his wife and son who he really loved and I was going to be alone again, and alone had been alright for a very long time; in fact, it had never not felt alright until he came along.  He just fit into our little family like nobody had ever fit before.  And he was going to get in the cab to go to the airport and I was never going to see him again.

Anyway, he talked to his wife on the phone at my place a lot, and she had finally found a house to rent near where he was going to look for work, and he was missing them both and his son especially, and plans were firming up for him to finish clearing and fly back and start applying for tech jobs.  He was coming to grips with the idea of being a civilian again after having spent so long thinking he would be career.  He was getting anxious to see his wife and kid and mostly just ready for the weird interim shit to be over, I think.  I came home one day with daughter on one hip and some groceries on the other and got into the kitchen in time to hear him say to his wife, about me, “She’s family now.”  I didn’t know what that meant, but I knew he was leaving in the morning at 3 a.m. and I wasn’t thinking about a whole hell of a lot else, just kind of feeling sad and feeling stupid for being such a fucking sap about it.

He helped me cook dinner and I tried not to cry.  He cleaned up while I put my daughter to bed and I tried not to cry.  I sat on the sofa and opened a beer and tried not to cry.  He sat down next to me and put his arms around me and we just sat there, really quiet, for a while.

And then he kissed me.  He put his hands on my face, and he lifted my chin, and he kissed me, and I thought I was going to die.

And then, a few hours later, he got into the cab to go to the airport and I never saw him again.