There’s a haunted mansion ride at the amusement park near my family’s house. I used to be terrified, more than anything else in my life of opening my eyes inside this haunted mansion. I would cry and cling to whoever was riding with me while pictures of horrific monsters and ghosts played in my head. One time when my grandmother rode with me she made me open my eyes and promised it would be ok. She held my hand and promised. So between the tears and stubborn cries I finally opened my eyes. I saw what I had been fearing the whole time. And it was nothing. Just an old house filled with cheap pop-ups and chipped paint set to music.
I felt foolish.
She told me that sometimes what we create in our imagination is scarier than the truth. I used to believe that.
My grandfather always had to walk slowly and with a cane. Most old people I knew walked with canes, so I didn’t think anything of it. I didn’t know his leg was amputated. I didn’t know his back was scar tissue. I didn’t know his remaining ankle barely functioned. I was about 5 at the time and of course following my grandparents around and telling stories, singing silly songs, whatever. He was getting ready for bed and started to roll up his pant leg. I had only seen glimpses of his leg before. This time though I saw enough to recognize it wasn’t real as he carefully detached his wooden prosthetic.
What was left of his leg was cushioned with gauze, scared and red with scabs and blisters. I just stared. I didn’t know what to do or say. My grandfather had just pulled his leg off and there was nothing there but a knobby, sowed up “knee”. Skin all puckered in. He rearranged his body as his leg moved up and down while he settled in place. I followed the movement of his injury before looking him in the eyes again. He smiled at me and laughed. My grandmother continued folding her clothes in the background.
I just stared.
I finally asked him if he could still feel his leg. He said he could sometimes. He would get itches that could never be scratched. ‘What do you do then!’
Well, I just have to wait for it to go away.
For all the men in my family who have served in the military I’ve never heard any of them talk about their combat experiences. From what I understand most won’t. I briefly dated an Afghanistan war vet who had served two tours. He was worried about being sent back before his contract was up. That was the most he talked about it. I later met an Iraq war vet in my classes who had also served two tours. We always studied together and often ended up talking about anything other than quantum mechanics. His father was in the Marines, we had a lot in common. One day he told me about his experiences there, the way he felt, what he saw. The most haunting thing he said to me was ‘I no longer feel love anymore’. I don’t blame him. His brother was sent over in the last deployment of the ‘surge’. He was not happy about that to say the least. ‘I fought so he wouldn’t have to’.
Around the new year I was dreaming my teeth fell out. I broke them off and pulled out the pieces in satisfying chunks and collected them on the bed next to me. At first I was pleased with what I had done, admiring my work…until I realized what I had selfishly turned myself into. Suddenly I flashed realizations and images of war and torture. Embarrassed, I was thankful it was only teeth. Even in my dreams I’m aware of the horrors of our outside reality. My imagination can’t compete anymore and hasn’t been able to for some time now.
Sometimes an injury becomes so mangled that you need to cut your losses and move forward with what you have left. Scar tissue and all. It might not be pretty, but not everything can be. This country has so many festering wounds right now that I don’t even know where to begin. Personally I decided that protests are the best way to go (well in addition to blogging, calls, emails, letters, petitions, etc…). The more people out on the streets the harder the wounds are to hide, the more connections are made, the more other people feel comfortable speaking out in public. The media can only refuse to cover so much until good old fashioned word of mouth overtakes the lies. Ignoring the underlying infections and hoping something else will fix it is slowly (or not so slowly) killing this country. Not impeaching our war criminal president is just rubbing salt in the wounds.
My bus to DC leaves Tuesday morning and I’m so excited to get back out again. I’d do it everyday if I thought enough people would join me. Maybe one of these days I really will just totally loose it and actually start knocking on people’s doors and shaking them…or maybe the economy will collapse and I won’t have to. Or maybe nothing will happen and the country will slowly descend into some bizzaro credit bubble induced, war mongering, wiretapped, overworked, morally bankrupt pseudo democracy….
You never can tell these things.