Lying on the forest floor, flooding the roots of the towering spectators with tears, I swear I could hear the trees whispering to each other. I had been coming here every night for six months now, listening to the sound of the ancient redwoods who spoke condolences through the wind. They understood loneliness, the silent feeling of emptiness that one gets only through living. During the first months, I had thought myself to be dead but I soon realized that I had not been blessed with the comfort in company that death brings. I was fated to live and grow with the redwoods, to watch the winters melt away everything but the sound of my cry and the commiserating trees that surrounded me. The doctors had told me once that I was lucky to be alive--that the bullet had been less then inches from my spine when I was found, that I should be dead. I stared at them in my wheelchair and thought that I didn't feel lucky. My convoy--my closest friends--were the lucky ones, buried in their heroism in the middle of whoever the f*** knows where. They were all together, wrestling and drinking whiskey in the clouds, watching me cry alone in the forest, with nothing but the redwoods and my wheelchair, and I could hear them laughing. The psychiatrists diagnosed it as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), threw some pills at me and said to take it easy. I told them there wasn't much else for a paraplegic unemployed veteran to do, and they laughed as though I was joking. I never took the medicine for fear that I would TRULY be living then, and I continued to linger in my suicidal existence. Since the incident, I had become a casual drinker, an "alcoholic" as the therapists reminded me. I always questioned the term, and argued that I was addicted to feeling good, which seemed a benevolent goal to obtain. Regardless of my intentions, it was the action that prompted my wife's divorce, my custody revoked, and my pension lost in the paperwork. As I cried through my drunken stupor, I recalled the first night I spent among the trees. Phantom limb had never been a phrase I could relate to, as my limbs were still intact, however a bottle of Jim Beam told me that it was time to stretch my legs. I wheeled into a clearing in the forest where my children used to play and convinced myself that it would be the most rewarding spot to take a stroll. I stood proudly for a glorious second, frozen eternally in my feat before tragically collapsing to the ground in realization of my failures. It went this way every night since then, feeling the rigid poise of a dignified soldier and his collapse to a graveyard of tombstones marking his life's accomplishments. I fell in the forest every night and no sound was ever heard.
Lying on the Forest Floor
May 21, 2012