The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

The Veteran

http://www.stripes.com/news/latest-va-estimate-of-veteran-suicides-comes-from-limited-data-1.206614

stripes.com

 

Matt (I have the impression that he was a big, buff guy)

I knew it was going to be over soon when I started getting the night terrors. Everything spooked me…every creak of a floorboard; a branch blowing against a window. When a plane flew low over the neighborhood, I’d start shaking and sometimes couldn’t stop for hours.

During the day, I went to the Center, where there were other guys like me. We joked around, played cards, told jokes. Smoked a lot of cigarettes  Held it together in front of the others with the one gram of pride we had left. But when I went home alone to my small room over an old lady’s garage, that’s when the fear started to come back. Too jumpy to sit still, sometimes I’d work out until I dropped from exhaustion.

In the beginning, with a little luck and a pill, I could sleep through the night. Towards the end, nothing helped me stay asleep. Through it all, I was terrorized by memories of the things I’d seen and the things I’d done.

I always had more questions for myself, but no matter how many I asked and answered, I never came to a satisfactory enough conclusion that allowed me to resolve things and make peace with myself. My thoughts were haunted by a million “what ifs”, all of them in the past and thus unalterable.

Regret, guilt and terror. These were all I was capable of feeling.  When I first returned,  I thought my emotions would eventually normalize and I’d go back to the way I used to be. But I was permanently damaged. Eventually I came to understand that some things change us so cataclysmically that the core is literally ripped from our soul. There is only one way to reunite them: death.

This dawned upon me slowly. For a while, I was in denial. I told myself I would get better — I’d just have to work harder. Ultimately, though, I recognized there would never be healing for me. This was my only option. Eventually, I would have to do it.

I walked around like an oozing sore, pustulating with malignancy and anger, infecting those around me. I was angry that killing myself was my only choice. I was angry that at 24, I was in this position. I should have had a long, happy life ahead of me; a wife and kids. Instead, I was just a husk of a human being. Killing myself wasn’t really going to destroy anything that wasn’t already completely destroyed.

After I realized that this would be my inevitable end,  I still managed to hang on for another year. In that time, I turned over every rock in my soul,   looking for progress, looking for a reason to hope. Under everything there was nothing but dust.

There are those who say suicide is the coward’s way out, but that one act took more courage than anything I’d ever done before in my life.

I thought about it seriously for a few weeks, wondering how I would go about it. I didn’t want to leave a mess upstairs for the old lady. She’d been nice to me. It didn’t want her to be traumatized by finding my body. I didn’t want anyone to have to find my body or clean up after me. I just wanted to be gone, quickly, quietly, painlessly and with the least amount of fuss.

One night, I packed up my things in a bag, left whatever money I had out on the bed for the landlady to find, and walked out to a place I knew would work. I threw the bag off the bridge first, then followed it into the dark icy water below.  Nobody saw me fall. The current was swift. I was out to sea before anyone missed me.

I didn’t leave a note. No one would bother to look for me. They’d all assume I’d just left town.  If anyone did eventually figure out what happened, they would know the reason why.

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