The brisk autumn air bit at my cheeks, the wind pushing my hair across my face. I stood for a moment, looking at the moon, and the stars. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. It had been a trying week, but we’d all, for the most part, survived. I was still breathing. Still living. Still.
I bowed my head, and opened my eyes slowly, as though I was executing my own grounding ritual, to remind me that I was here, there, now. I looked at my black corduroy skirt, and I felt my mind lurch.“That’s weird”, I thought. I looked at my stockings, and I felt a pit in my stomach open. Uh oh.
Then my eyes darted to my feet.
Suddenly, it was right in front of me. Like the earth had suddenly opened up and placed a screen right in front of me.
She was standing in the middle of the schoolyard. I remembered this day.
Her long mousy brown hair was tied in two braids, she was wearing a blue checkered button up shirt, and a blue corduroy skirt. Her long legs showed white tights.
“Wizard of Oz”, I mumbled. I remembered it was Halloween. I feel my mind stretch to remember how old I was. I think it was grade two. I would have been seven, maybe eight. I give up trying to remember, because it’s usually in vain.
I was alone. I could hear the sounds of a playground. I could remember the string of trees down the way where the older kids played. I remember the chainlink baseball diamonds, where my crush would chase me and tease me.
Why am I remembering this now?
She looks down at her shoes. They are black. Shiny. Mary Janes. They click when she walks. Click-clack, click-clack. We like that sound. We love those shoes.
The shoes. In a moment, she would run off, and she would ruin the shoes. I try to remember how. I try to remember what she does. It was really just an accident. I feel panicked, worried, sick. I want to remember what happens next, so I can stop her, maybe.
Then there is nothing.
I can hear sounds, angry sounds. I focus on the sounds. It’s her mother. Yes, the shoes were ruined. Suddenly, I’m paralyzed with complete terror. I can see the rage in her mother’s eyes, I can hear her father pacing around, in a disgusted manner. Her whimpering, pathetic, is no match for them. She knows what will happen next. We know what will happen next. I can feel the heat on my cheek, as her mother slaps her across the face. I feel the pain on her lower back as another blow is delivered. There is pushing, a lot of pushing. A lot of barking, and pointing.
They are telling her how useless she is. How worthless she is, and uncaring. How she is destructive, and manipulative. She has no concern for anyone but herself, they say. I can feel her tears streaming down her face. The shoes, they were her favorite. How did they not know that? How could they think? She begins to feel guilty, and considers that maybe it was her fault. Maybe she did do it on purpose, like they say. Maybe she is selfish and stupid. Maybe they are right. Maybe she deserves all of this.
But then, she tries to fight back, meagerly. She weakly tells them it really was an accident, that she’ll pay them back, or do anything to prove that she feels bad, and that she didn’t mean it. This only ignites their rage. Insults are slapped this way and that. I can hear her wailing. I can hear them yelling. Doors are slamming…
I look up, and see The Hubby walking toward me, his smile as bright as the moon in the sky. I smile back, take a deep breath, and return to gather the kids from the car.
I loved those shoes. A lot. Click-clack.
This is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is how it works- one moment you are here, there, now. The next you are gone. Taken by some flashback, some strange memory of the trauma you once lived.
This is my life, it doesn’t end. At least it hasn’t yet. Maybe one day it will. For now, I stand waiting, at the ready, sometimes not, for these walls to slam into me, memories splaying when they feel they should, triggers being anything from the sound of a note to the shape of a shadow.
Some days, they are better than the last. Some nights are better than others.
But this is my reality now. Programmed differently, exhausted in a way I hope most never know, and there is no light, at the is moment, at the end of the tunnel. Just more preparation and waiting for the next time.
This is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
This is me.