The Sun Never Rises: Chapter Twenty-One
The Healing Has Begun
It happens, you know . . . healing . . . it takes time, of course, and may require pain, but it does happen.
Max is learning these things. Katie’s doing the same. Seems the whole damned family has healing to do, but this family has something that will help them immensely . . . they have love.
But there will be pain from time to time.
So we continue on with the story because, well, I think it’s a story that needs to be told. I write it for all the veterans out there. I write it for the victims of abuse, the victims of violence, and the victims of catastrophe. May you all find peace! May you all find healing!
Up in the Attic
My old man has a Colt .45 up in the attic. He’s had it all my life, got it from his old man, an instrument of war then, now just a memento, something to pull out from time to time, lift it, feel the grips, and then pack away again until the next time curiosity comes calling. Far as I know it still works, can still be loaded, can still be fired . . . can still kill.
One sunny morning in May, just a metaphor of a day in Seattle, the birds chirping like crazy at the park, mothers out pushing strollers, mowers providing background music, me hitting fly-balls to my CYO team, and out of nowhere I’m thinking about that Colt .45, wondering if a guy would feel a thing if he pressed the muzzle up under his chin and squeezed the trigger, just ended it all right then and there, no muss, no fuss, instant transition from sunlight to darkness, you know?
Well no, you probably don’t know, seeing as those aren’t “normal” thoughts for a guy hitting balls, playing a kids’ game, enjoying the seventy degree sunshine. It was a day better spent dreaming of the good life, or an upcoming marriage to Katie, of my dad’s recuperation from a heart attack, of the continued healing going on in our family, a damned good day for embracing all the good in my life but dammit all to hell, I was thinking of blowing the roof of my head off.
And then it was gone, and the birds’ songs were as sweet as ever, and Jamie Silkin settled under the pop fly and hauled it in, whooping to his friends.
Welcome to my world!
I told Katie about it later that night, us curled up in bed, doing the spoon, her wild red hair splayed out on the pillow, my hand resting on the softness just above her hip.
“Did you want to do it, Max?” she asked, and then turned over to face me, searching my face for the lie to come, or the truth, whatever.
I can’t lie to Katie. She’s been through the same hell I’ve been through, her live ammo a pimp’s fist, her I.U.D.s the thunderous right hooks to the side of her head, keeping her in line, insuring she earned her keep by spreading her legs for every guy with a crumpled twenty.
Survivors should never lie to each other.
“Sometimes yes, Katie, yes, I want to find peace, and I know that round of ammunition can give it to me, but it’s just glimpses of insanity, you know, quick flashes, the crazies doing a fly-over and then they’re gone, and then I shake my head and realize healing takes time, and I am healing, I know it, I feel it . . . but then the crazies return.”
She ran her fingers through my hair, her eyes never leaving mine, a gentle smile her only communication, truthfully the only communication I needed at that moment.
“I’ve got no answers, soldier boy. I’ve got no words of advice. All I know is I love you, and I’d be pissed as hell if one day you acted on those impulses and climbed the attic stairs. Pissed as all hell, you hear me?”
“It’s never happened to you, Katie, the desire to end it all?”
There’s a grandfather clock downstairs in our home. I could hear it ticking as Katie considered my question.
“I was thirteen the first time I kissed a boy. His name was Josh Anderson. God, I don’t even remember what he looked like, but I know he was two years older, in high school, and I remember he kissed me so gently, sent shivers through me, that’s all he did, just a sweet kiss and a promise for more sweetness in the future.
“The next night my stepfather visited me for the first time, and every night after that, and, well, from then on, the thought of Josh Anderson kissing me just made me sick, and then angry, and after more time all I wanted to do was find a gun and blow off the body parts of any asshole who touched me. So no, Max, I’m not suicidal, but I may well be homicidal,” and she suddenly laughed, and the absurdness of her laugh made me laugh, and her laughing ended abruptly when she kissed me, hard, kept kissing me as her hands searched, searched, found their quarry, and led me to that secret place of safety and sanity.
Afterwards, her head across my chest, our breathing returning to normal, the illusion of serenity spread over me, and thoughts of steel-jacketed ammunition slipped out the partially-opened window into the mild night.
The Next Morning
Katie wasn’t working that day, so she went with me to the VA for my therapy session. She said she wanted to walk the grounds while I met with Doctor Prentiss, but I’m pretty sure she just wanted to be near me in case I felt the sudden need to squeeze off a round.
Doctor Prentiss, “please call me Madeline,” is early fifties, an attractive woman, takes care of herself, in shape, a kind face with a gap in her teeth and a slight lisp. I like her. I think I trust her. I must. I’ve opened up to her, so that’s trust for sure. She had been slowly lessening my dosages of Zoloft, working in some cognitive therapy, hoping to have me off the meds by the end of the year. I told her about my thoughts as soon as we began the session.
“Did that frighten you, Max?” she asked.
“Not the dying, Madeline, but the feeling of being out of control, that’s what frightens me.”
She tilted her head, gave that some thought.
“Do you feel like you might hurt someone while you’re having those thoughts, maybe snap and kill some soccer mom at the park?”
And her bullet found the bulls-eye. My expression must have changed because I know she could tell from looking at me that she had found the mark.
“You won’t, Max, so stop worrying about it. You aren’t going to hurt some soccer mom and you’re not going to go up in the attic, find that .45, and kill yourself.”
“With all due respect, Doc, how do you know that?”
“I know that, Max, because I’m damned good at my job, and I’ve been in your shoes. I’m going to put you on an exercise program. You can either join a gym or work out at home, but I want daily exercise. We need to get your body back to doing what it does best, namely feed your mind with the necessary healthy signals. I’m also putting you on a restricted diet. No caffeine. Limit the sugar. And get yourself some iTunes to listen to throughout the day, slip on some ear buds and listen to soothing songs, no heavy metal, maybe some acoustic, folk rock, light indie.
“Keep working with those kids at CYO. That job is perfect for you, and keep talking to your family about your feelings. You can’t hurt them by sharing, Max, but you can hurt them by being secretive and trying to spare them feelings they have ownership of. The next time the banshees call on you, and you think about that Colt .45 upstairs, dial Katie, or your sister, or mom or dad, and talk it out, right then and there. We are done with secret thoughts, Max. Say it after me.”
“I am done with secret thoughts,” we both said, and shortly after I left her office and found Katie sitting by the fountain out front.
“Well?” she asked. “Are you crazy?” and her eyes sparkled as she punched me in the arm.
“No crazier than you for being with me,” and I kissed her. “Come on. The Doc wants me to eat better and start exercising, so let’s go pile on the calories one last time. I need a double-cheeseburger and chocolate shake.”
After Katie had fallen asleep, after Mom and Dad and sister Jeanie were deep in dream land, I left the bed, walked down the hall, opened a door, and climbed the stairs into the attic. The second box to the right of the support post, Capital Printing on the label, and inside that box a blue towel wrapped around the silver and black surface of the Colt.
I sat down, my back against the post, and put the gun in my lap. Just looked at it. Ran my fingers over it, not asking it to do anything, just keep me company for a little while. I slipped the ear buds in and listened to some Simon and Garfunkel, them telling me all about the sounds of silence, hello darkness my old friend, and I closed my eyes and allowed the tears to flow.
2017 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)