by Richard H. Geisel

How long does one repent and hide inside their skin?

Attending VA PTSD group yesterday reliving the past morphed into tight chest, sweat and anxiety attacks.  In attempt to talk about my dreams and stay detached the stoic wall collapsed. I went home exhausted and couldn’t wait for the safety of my bed and the covers over my head.  Once inside my cocoon the dreams started.

It is 4:30AM and I awake crying. The room is dark with a sliver of moonlight piercing the shutters. Not to disturb my wife, I go downstairs to my refuge, the morning sunroom. The garden is dark, security lights mysteriously off. No signs of birds, squirrels or deer. Only the subtle edges of the shrubs and flowers are visible. The garden had changed. This is not the once proud statuesque garden where my thoughts would walk.  Quietness pounded in my ears.

Sitting motionless I stopped crying, my ribcage hurt from the heaving.  Thoughts wave over me as I relive the dream.

Mountainous emerald ancient boxwoods created a tunnel to travel through, a time tunnel. I was walking in the alley behind my home trying to get home.  Each time I approached the back chain link gate tightness twisted my stomach, only one small step and I was home. Go through that gate.  Don’t be afraid.  My family is there, safety is there.  For years I had relived this dream, this Groundhog Day dream. No reunion, no safety, no family.

Tonight, as I walked towards the gate a small figure was waiting and waving.  Golden curls circled her cherub face, her toes gently touching the ground.  As I approached the petite girl stretched out her hand towards mine.                                                                              

 Should I take her hand or run. Is she real?  Does she want to harm me? Hundreds of times I got to the gate but could not touch the latch.  Fear froze me to the ground.  Before I was able to move she caressed my hand in hers.

“Daddy, it is alright, don’t be afraid, please come in with me.  Mommy and I have been waiting for you for a very long time”.

I started weeping deep in my stomach. Suddenly I was awake in bed, my wife slowing breathing beside me.

The beauty of the garden was gone, withered in my mind. The bile taste of fear growing in my throat.

 A distant steady clopping grew louder. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are riding tonight. They are coming for retribution, for payment.

How often the sunroom and garden had given me peace. There is no peace in my dreams and the PTSD group is less than a band aid on the inner fear.

Is the reality there is no garden and my retreat in the sunroom is a dream? Does relief only come when you pay, and who do you pay?

How long does one repent and hide inside their skin?

Will my life be nothing more?

Can the little girl find me again and bring me through the gate into the peace that has no name?

I pray the little girl will find me again and bring me home.