Thursday, September 20, 2012

no exit wounds

This morning, I wake up two hours before my alarm is set to go off.  My eyes snap open.  I haven't moved a muscle, but I'd swear my body was made of lead.  I'm sobbing in an instant, and I gradually work myself up to a near-hyperventilating state.  Dial Mom.  No answer.  Dial Daddy.  He picks up.  They're still in bed in Phoenix, but I don't care that I'm waking them up at 6am.  I haven't called like this since the summer I watched someone die in the middle of West End Avenue.  And I haven't had a morning like this in years.  Last time I had a nightmare this horrifying, I was sixteen, and I crawled right into Mom and Dad's bed, crying hysterically between the two of them, no questions asked.  In my dream eight years ago, I held a gun to an abuser's head.  This morning, the gun is on me.

As far as I  can tell, I'm doing NGO work somewhere in the middle of Afghanistan in winter.  It's biting cold and desolate.  The sky is one great slab of heavy gray steel, a perpetual dusk with no clouds, no movement, no change.  Everything is eerily still.  

I'm in what seems like an abandoned hospital or army barracks.  The place is desolate and mostly uninhabitable, save for a few others like me and some locals roaming about, presumably because they're too old or frail or tired to go elsewhere.  I stand on a second-story terrace, watching another woman like myself run after a supply truck that's mistakenly left with a stack of emergency blankets we desperately need.  She's banging on the back of the cab, choking back cold, chalky dust until the driver stops.  We have our blankets.  And the rations of food they left.

Then I sense a shift.  Someone who is supposed to be on "our side" suddenly is no longer. I don't know who he is, but I know that yesterday, he was an ally, and today, he is not.  Standing on a hill about fifty yards away, dressed in a smart red uniform, he turns from his lookout position and fixes his sights on me.  I am startled, but he gives me a knowing look.  Knowing I could never move quickly enough to outrun him, I take a breath, turn my back, and brace myself.  Why his loyalties have shifted, I don't know, but he seals the deal with three shots: two square in the middle of my back and one in my head.  

I'm face-down on the floor and acutely aware of the pain at first, but my body goes into shock quickly, and soon, I don't feel much.  I have no exit wounds in my abdomen, and I don't know what's going on with my head, but I am somehow able to stand up, wander the mostly-empty corridors, and ask how to get to the nearest hospital.  It seems everyone else here has resigned themselves to this losing battle and cannot bring themselves to muster much concern for my current state.  

At the end of one corridor, I find a young, white-coat American woman whom I hope might be able to help me.  She reads my face in a single glance and understands my situation immediately.  

"I'm prepared to die," I tell her, "because I know where I'm going."  And it's here that I lose what little composure I've managed to keep.  "But I just have to get home to my family.  You don't know what this will do to my parents." 

She is kind and sympathetic, and I'm comforted by something she mentions about God and His purposes.  But she can't get me to a hospital.  Her advice is the same as that of everyone else here: find a cane and start walking, or come up with $15k for a MedEvac.  My situation is becoming more bleak and absurd by the minute.

I leave the corridor and stumble into some sort of kitchen where, inexplicably, my dear friend Mitch is washing dishes.  I collapse against him, sobbing, and he just stands there, stunned and dripping soap suds into a puddle on the floor. 

By some twisted bit of luck, I have cell service.  But I can't bear to call my parents.  Instead, I text them both vague "I love you" messages and decide to call my little brother.  I'll tell him everything.  He has to take care of Mom and Dad and Chelsea.  He has to be good to them because unlike me, he gets a shot a living a bit longer and being a part of their lives.  I'm about to call him...

And that's it.  That's when I wake up feeling like I've been encased in concrete.

I don't know what dreams like this are supposed to mean.  But I know they remind me of how much I cherish my time here on Earth with the people I love.  This morning, I made sure to tell my parents I love them.  And as she was running out the door to work, bewildered by her crying roommate crumpled up on the sofa, I told Hanne I love her, too.  And I'm saying it now to the rest of you: I love you.  Whether I see you daily or haven't seen you in years, each of you means something to me, and I count myself immensely blessed to have you in my life.  My life would be nothing if not for the people in it.

If you can, tell your parents you love them.  Tell your wife or your husband.  Tell your siblings, your nieces and nephews, your friends.  

Life is short.  Make love a priority.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! So sorry for the bad dream - but THANK YOU for the reminder - how important it is to tell everyone in our lives that we love them! Thanks Mollie.