flashbacks. terrors. ptsd. living.
I can’t feel a thing but I can hear the black-winged beetles strum and see thousands of them moving around. Like a colony of ants prying the doors open crawling one on top the other, the beetles gather into clusters and wait, move a little more, fly slightly off the ground, and then fall to their horde. They make the ground look black. I can’t feel a thing and I can’t move but there she is unwrapping me from my clothes. The sheet tucked around her waist, her breasts exposed, as she makes her way to my chest with her lips, pinning her nails into my thighs. But I’m not here with her, on my bed, laying bare, exposed, defenseless, and raw. She’s not on my mind. The bugs are on my mind. I’m among the bugs and the mud, the wet grass, the wet soil. Like snakes, they move around me. Slither. Slither and strum as I lay naked detached from my body, listening and watching, because I can’t move and I can’t scream. Maybe it’s because I’m too petrified and paralyzed that I can’t move my mouth or maybe I’m not allowed to; but, I don’t scream. I don’t move… but she stops and compresses my chest. She must have been shouting for a moment because when I come back to her, she’s pale and looking petrified. “Are you okay?” She asks shaken.
I finally exhale without realizing that I have been holding my breath and start crying as if I have just witnessed my death. She pulls the sheets from under her and covers us both. Her breasts to my chest; her arms around me squeezing; her cheeks to mine. Cradling me as a distraught and shaking child, “You looked like you were experiencing so much pain. What’s the matter?” She asks in that soft voice a mother would ask her child and the only thing I whisper back to her as an answer, “Will you throw me away?”
Without hesitation, she answers, “Of course not.”
Judith is a mother of an adorable toddler girl and I’m a young pup of thirty-two. We met as she made an order of three cocktails, one for her friend and two for herself. She said, “Make them solid,” and I did. By the end of her night, the night of her friend’s fortieth birthday, she slipped me her number and walked away without one glance back. I knew then and there, she’s a strong woman. I called her two days later, not because I was trying to play hard to get but because I thought she wasn’t serious. Maybe the two ‘solid’ drinks went to her head and a decision of giving me her number was a whim, without any intention, and that she might be regretting it. Three weeks later and few dates in-between, here I am wrapped in her arms, weeping like a broken-hearted fool and I wasn’t even in a serious relationship for the past five years. So, yeah, this is a first fuck to remember.
I don’t even know why I ask, ‘Will you throw me away?’ That’s an awkward and random question to ask, but at this moment, I don’t want her to go because I’m petrified what’s in my head. What was in my head few seconds ago and why I couldn’t feel the pleasure given by this beautiful woman who’s lying on top of me now, holding me as if for my dear life and she holds me for a while until I stop trembling, until my eyes dry and my breathing stabilizes… and she doesn’t leave until I fall asleep. But, sleep is always the same. It has been ever since my twenty-seventh birthday.
The musk as the moon shines way, way above, and the shadowy figure of a man hovers over me before he kneels next to me and without second to spare, in his bulging grasp, a knife. A knife he’s about to plunge into my flesh right at the base of my chest, to my diaphragm, and at that moment I know he aims to make an incision down my middle to my pelvis. But, I cannot feel a thing and again I can’t move. All I can do is watch this dark shadowy man figure about to cut me wide open like an animal for slaughter and pull out all of my organs… and at that moment, when it’s about to happen, I jump out of my hibernation. I jump right into a sitting position in my bed and realize that Judith has gone. She left the night lamp on for me and under it a note, “I’m sorry. The babysitter called. Had to go.”
The babysitter might have called or might have not. I don’t know but I think might as well delete Judith’s number from my phone. By morning, my twisted night settles and I get a decent sleep, trying my best to forget about Judith and what transpired in the bedroom.
Day passes, two, and Judith hasn’t called and I haven’t called her as I in the haste removed her number or any evidence of her from my phone, including the texts. Although, I could easily find her on Instagram as I’m unable to forget her handle. But, that’s not a way to communicate. But then, on the third day, she appears at my door. Two knocks, maybe three, and for a moment I hesitate to open the door. She stands staring back at me through the glass of the door. I am visible, in plain sight, holding onto the latch unable to move it. Judith calls my name, which might be for the fifth or sixth time before I unfreeze and eventually open the door.
“May I?” She asks.
I nod and let her into the kitchen. I grab my tea, take a sip, and lean against the fridge. “My therapist and I didn’t think you’d come back,” I somewhat attempt a joke but cross my arms and scoot my fingers under my pit as if guarding my chest and trying to hold my reactions.
“I’m trying to understand what happened. Was it me? But… it was more as if you weren’t with me. Where did you go?”
That moment to decide whether to part with something of yourself or keep it all a secret and let the awkward moment be simply an awkward moment leaving the person questioning your reality without explanation. I choose the former and begin my tale, “We were newlywed, about a year and we postponed our honeymoon because we wanted to do something exotic. All those childish dreams. So, we traveled through China. But we were tourists, prime, in our twenties and one day we vanished. I must have been drugged because I remember flashes of things. Being completely paralyzed but able to hear things. I couldn’t see at first because I think they covered my eyes but I think they talked about sex and porn because those two words were used very frivolously… as if they were making some bids… and then I woke up. I still couldn’t move but I could hear and see. And I know it was outside and dark. I think it was cold but definitely wet. Although I couldn’t feel, I could see the rain, and then a shadow of a man… and then I felt a sharp plunge in my stomach and that’s it. I was out.” I look at Judith’s void face that one that’s hard to decipher, whether she’s petrified by my words or wants to hear more, so I continue unknowing, uncaring. Might the truth unfold the future, I figure. “Before all of that, I was married, wanted to have children, wanted to have a home filled with laughter and smell of sugar cookies. All that ridiculous things you want… and now I start weeping when a wonderful and sexy woman touches me. That must have been a first for you.”
But she ignores my last sentence and says, “That’s the surgery scar, you said. But it wasn’t surgery.”
“An ambush. They took my kidney but there must have been something wrong with me because they dump my body in the middle of the street. I don’t remember any of it. The next thing I remember is waking up in a hospital… Sarah wasn’t that lucky. Twenty-four and that was her end. She was found days later… We wanted to start a family as soon as we came back… out of all of this I wanted to be a father the most and now I don’t know if I can… and… I hate that they took that from me… that and Sarah, especially knowing how she died… and I’m here… half alive… so last night… I get terrors even awake. I fall into the flashes of memory… it’s random… always at the back of my head… sometimes without a trigger or notification.”
“You asked, ‘will you throw me away?’ What did that mean?” Judith asks.
“Like cattle. I knew I was going to be chopped up to parts. I kept on thinking, what about the rest of me? My head. My mind. Are they just going to toss it away as garbage, something of a waste? All my memories. All my feelings. All my joys and pain. Gone. Trash… and would you know, I’m a vegetarian now. All living things and all of that. Changes your perspective on life… changes your perspective on everything around you. Changes you… I’m sorry. That’s a lot to unload.”
Judith stands there looking back at me as if trying to read my soul, which I feel a have little of left and then she walks up to me and looks me straight in the eye and then hugs me, squeezing tight.
Luisa likes to fly like the plane and she does the count up to ten before the liftoff, spreads her arms like wings before I swing her up, and she begins to laugh. She’s five today and Judith and I have been going on now for two years. I was right. She is a tough and strong woman but most strangely she gave me another chance.
The flashbacks like living terrors, come and go, but now it’s a bit more manageable, tolerable.
© Jacob Greb — 2019
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