“Oh, that scares you, huh? What about this? Crack-Crack…Crack-Crack-Crack..Crack-Crack…Soul-piercing screams from my younger brother as my hands grab the dashboard in sheer desperation to stop the pick up truck from slamming into the tree quickly charging into us. The shots from my uncle continue. “Thud-Thud…Thud-Thud…” He’s laughing now as he air-shoots his rifle out the window at imagined “Gooks”. His laugh guts me now as I replay this almost 40 year old memory over in my head. It’s possessed…Demonic…Evil…and he seems to be enjoying this. “This is how we drove while shooting the Gooks in Nam” he says as he turns to face my terrified brother and I. I have no idea how old I am let alone my brother. I can say that this is one of my earliest childhood memories though. He is still smiling. His knees were under the steering wheel and he purposely jerked the pick up truck left and right down this meandering gravel road somewhere in country. “He’s going to hit a tree.” The truck skids along this road to his past as he again turns to shoot his imagined enemies.
No, my uncle was not well. By any means. It’s no longer a mystery as to why. It wasn’t “Nam” that did something to him. Nam likely made it all worse, but it definitely didn’t start it. As I have gotten older and picked up more of my mother’s birth family’s lore, it all began to slowly and painfully start to make perfect sense.
I am quite sure that I have already mentioned that I am in my mid-40’s. I was a young kid during the early 1970’s and my Uncle was likely back from his terms in Viet Nam. I never told anyone this until the last couple of years. It had flashed forward into my consciousness here and there over the years in much the same way an odd memory percolates it’s way from the depths of depths of all those cracks in our noggens. They never SEEM to make much sense and for me, seem to come and go as quickly and randomly as the eye floaters I now get! Most times, in fact, they make about the same amount of “sense” as those eye floaters!
Now, though, I am woke, and self-awareness has this darker side that can be be as treacherous as getting driven down a country road by a Vietnam Veteran who might be flashbacking. This awareness shows up in many situations now. It showed up while living with my Mom after a crazy making divorce that left me without a job, no home, no access to money, and only what possessions my X-Wife decided I could have. It would not have been a big deal if it was “just me” back in my Mom’s home, but my young daughter was there too, every weekend.
I’m upstairs. I cannot breath. If I was prone to “shaking” I would have been. Nothing feels “real”. I am not breathing. The yelling cuts right through me. I am paralyzed. I am in my mid 40’s and frozen. My daughter and young niece and nephew are still down there. My Mom has lost her shit again. Her words are “searing” into me. I cannot breathe. The kids are still down there. Why is everything around me vibrating?
My daughter, not even 2 and a half runs into my room. Her eyes are wide with fear and she is very “animated”. I…must…breathe….But why is everything buzzing? She is talking to me. Something about her Grandma yelling at her cousins? Cannot move. Must breathe. “You’re right dear. I don’t like it either.” “I’m going to tell her to stop!” The yelling carries on outside the house. I am upstairs and my daughter, who I have spent a full year of college tuition on in making sure I get to see, is downstairs. And I…Cannot breathe.
I am, honestly, still freaked in writing this. For one, I get that I am not ready to share the details about this. I am filtering much in order to not hurt my Mom and brothers. Child Protective Services has already been called. Twice. And not by me. Abuse? Nahhhh, c’mon! She’s “just angry”. She didn’t actually HIT them; she only THREATENED to. That’s normal for Christ’s sake. I know better. Now.
It was around this point that I had my Psychiatrist on “speed-dial”. Yes, I am older. We spoke at least weekly. He was adamant that I was doing “remarkably well”. “Arjhan, you are going through at least 5 or 6 of the biggest life stressors any person can go through, and you are going through them all at the same time.” he assures me. It’s a tricky thing to hear as part of me is thinking, “Hmmm, I guess all those meds and therapy must be paying off. I must be “stronger” than I thought?” while the other part is wondering WHO I am fooling more; him or myself. I called him after the buzzing sensation would not go away for a full day or so. As I tried to breathe my way through it, or meditate it away, I one of them random memories percolated it’s way to the front burner of my brain; I know this feeling. This has happened before. The first time I can definitely recall feeling this way was in my freshmen year in college. It was as I was an some sort of autopilot and moving through my activities without really being the one doing the moving. It felt as if nothing was “real” even though I understood everything was. It seemed as if with my next word or step, I would waken in the middle of the night shaking me head, rolling over, thinking to myself, “That was weird.” as I succumbed to slumber.