Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Walking Dead

by The Usual Suspect

I wanted out. I wanted out bad, and I got it. Started chomping down on the fruits of freedom, til my eyes grew wide and I retched, maggots, worms, and rot at the core. This heart is healthy, no one's firing guns around here or setting off bombs.

Maybe we thought that something magical was going to happen when we got out. You know, the President lands on your lawn to shake your hand, have a beer and tell a couple dirty jokes, then salute and fly off, loudly complimenting your gi-fucking-normous balls of adamantine. Then you drop off a resume. ONE resume. It lands on the desk and sends the shrapnel of all other bullshit flying. The guy interviewing you hires you on the spot (this actually did eventually happen to me, well...I got hired on the spot, but we'll get to that), the pay is good, the work gratifying, THE AMERICAN MOTHERFUCKIN' DREAM finally handed over.

Now I know that no one is entitled to everything and there is no such thing as easy street. Just stop making it fucking SOUND like the Army will make the rest of our lives perfect.

I'm a dishwasher. I wash dishes. I stand up all day and wash dishes, and I watch them come right back to me like a boomerang. My feet and knees and back begin to hurt, and I spend 20 minutes scrubbing, spraying, and contemplating going out to my car and getting a pair of desert boots to wear. And that's when I spend the next hour washing more dishes and thinking about Iraq. Thinking about the guys. Wondering if my unit is back in Iraq or not. Where, or what they're doing, how they're doing. And then I remember how it was for me when I was in their boots. I was worlds away, kicking it with guys I loved, pissing and moaning about the rigors and bullshit of our job, but on some kind of adventure nonetheless. And I didn't want to talk to people back home. I didn't want the pain. I didn't want the questions, I DAMN sure didn't want all the concern. I didn't want to think about home. They don't have time to be missed. They need to have their head in the game.

Friends from before the Army lose touch, they change, or just never cared as much as you let yourself believe they did. You start to see the selfishness in everything. Everyone. When you feel like a stranger around everyone you know, you start to feel isolated. Then it turns into anger or depression, back and forth. Self-loathing, hatred for everyone on the road. Someone throws trash out of their window and it hits mine. I want to chase him down and pull him out of his car and stuff the paper in his mouth. Then I let off the gas and exhale.

"Just be yourself" doesn't apply when your SELF isn't appropriate for normal people. The chasm grows wider. Then you start sending resumes out to private military companies. Toying with the idea of making some insane money and playing soldier-boy again. But if it was the right answer, every vet would be doing it.

You don't get a response anyway.

So the days come and go, and you deal with the VA here and there. Go to appointments, answer questions, whatever, and then you go back to your life (see you in a month). You go home and look at your pill collection. Anti-anxiety pills. Little ones that dissolve under your tongue for rapid deployment to stem off those pesky panic attacks. Oh, and these ones here are for nausea. Those ones on the right were from a minor injury. Good for treating inflamed joints and muscles. And THESE, these are the pills that the achievers just love. These are your A.D.Dipshit pills and when one of those NORMAL people take them, they get tweaked son, fuck yeah, they can study ALL night AND clean EVERYTHING AND THEY LOOK GREAT CUZ THEY DON'T EAT! Consult your doctor if you have any heart or psychological conditions.

"You live in a college town. Why not sell them?"

1) It's illegal and I hate even INTANGIBLE forms of confinement.

2) Half the fucks dumb enough to take any pill to get fucked up are dumb enough to find a way to to screw up royally.

3) I don't WANT those assholes studying like cyborgs and getting kickass grades. Future leaders of the world all fucking tweaked out. Then the cocksuckers will send my kids off to a war that they'll later admit was "poorly planned". Fuck you. Drop out and wash dishes.

Oh, and here's some antidepressants. They only work if you take them EVERYDAY....EVERYDAY.....EVERYDAY....EVERYDAY....EVERYDAY. You have to have it in your blood constantly.

"Well Suspect, this generally goes unsaid but you could try *other* *alternative* *natural* *herbal* *appetite-stimulating* *medicine*."

1) This state does not list PTSD or any form of anxiety as criteria for medical marijuana.

2) It's only legal on the state level. If for ANY reason, Federal Government wanted to, they'd be able to raid my place. Throw me in prison. "Not so hungry now, are ya Suspect? Three hots, a cot, and a nice big teddy bear for a cellmate." Probation. That means piss tests. Remember those, army kids?

3) What about MORE IMPORTANT things, like bills, food, rent?

"Duh, Suspect, you can just grow your o-"

Hold the motherfuckin phone a second. A grow operation. Felony? I heard it's a felony.


4) If you're a REGISTERED POTSMOKER, will they allow you to own a gun? [Hahaha, he said ALLOW, like people are property, that's funny!]

Yeah. Oh well. Alcohol is legal. I can walk across the street and get beer or wine. A few more blocks if I want liquor. That's a nice time-honored method of decompressing. I see commercials now and then. Oh fuck! There was a game today! At the college! that I dropped out of. They advocate alcohol consumption at those. Maybe I'll get shit-faced and look at some pictures of me and my buddies while I clean my gun.

[I don't know how to type the sound that a scoff makes.]

Yeah, no booze for me, thankyouverymuch. I hear its a DEPRESSant. I hear bad things can happen. I hear it's involved in a lot of deaths and accidents and domestic disturbances. KEEP ON ENCOURAGING THAT SHIT, AND TiVO "COPS" FOR ME! I AIN'T GOT CABLE!

"Dude, quit fucking crying and play your guitar or something. Oh, ha, wait, I forgot that your power flickers on and off all day. Ha!"

Too long? Didn't read?

The Army told me I'd be back in six months if I got out. That the real world just wasn't right for us anymore. That we couldn't handle it. I said "Bullshit, man. Not me. It'll never happen to me. Nothing can happen to me now, everything from here on out is going to be ok."

The Universe is trying to prove me wrong. To this, I say, "Present....arms!"

If Iraq didn't kill me, the "American Dream" sure as fuck won't.

(The STUD in the photograph is wearing a mask so that the entire female population doesn't fall in love with the same guy. -Management)


Liz said...

Awesome. You should just be writing every day, all the time. I know it's hard to get paid for that... but you're really really good at it.

13 Stoploss said...

Remember that part in Office Space when Lawrence, played by Diedrich Bader, says in a nodding approval, "Fuckin'-A man..."?

Yeah. Fuckin'-A man...

Anonymous said...

They said you couldn't handle it, and they were wrong. Yeah, you're washing dishes, but you're not drinking, you're not smoking weed - you're not destroying yourself just because they were right when they said it would be hard. The American Dream isn't about the picket fence or the office job, or it shouldn't be. It should be about living your life on your own terms. You've gotten fucked over too many times, but you're still standing on your own two feet. Seems to me that's something. Good luck, and hang in there. I can't say for sure that, oh, "you're going to be just fine" - life doesn't work that way and it's not my choice to make. But you've got your head on straight, insofar as you actually let off the gas and exhale when you're mad at the guy in the other car. Not everyone's in that place less than six months out of combat. I'm not trying to tell you to count your blessings or something - you're already there with the few blessings you've got. Just know that your determination is working in your favor, and don't forget that there are people out there who care.

Sisu said...

You're too young for me to fall in love with, mask notwithstanding, but I'm still considering adoption just so I can listen to/read this all the time.

Pattie Matheson said...

A reader knows a writer excels at his/her craft when the text affects the reader on some level.

This post made me really uncomfortable.

Anonymous said...

"This too, shall pass."

Really. It will.


KathyB said...

The theme of one of my favorite Vonnegut books, Jailbird is "some people can't make it on the outside."

You, sir, are doing just fine.

bigD said...

Hi Suspect,
I have my stick and I am ready to use it on whomever...crazed admirers, litterbugs and bad drivers, VA counselors, pill-prescribing doctors, bad friends, door-to-door American Dream sales people, trees bearing the fruit of freedom, bus boys who keep putting dishes in your sink, Army recruiters, people proposing the sale and use of illegal substances as a way to "get by", intoxicated college students with shit for brains, and ANYONE WHO WOULD TRY TO MESS WITH YOU!! I have a lot of anger and I am happy to beat the livin' crap out of some people for you. Wow...that felt good! God(s) bless you Ryan. You still rock my socks.

Anonymous said...

Man, you are just as crazy as ever!

JT said...

Define YOUR American Dream- not what anyone/thing is telling you it should be. Then it's yours to chase/run down/chip away at.

Washing dishes may not be sexy (although that middle finger does have a bit of softness to it- Palmolive?) but it's a means to an end- just like staying off the heavy stuff. All for your greater good.

Anonymous said...

There was a really awesome comment in place of this one but you made me delete for the kiddies so all you get is this:

Rock on.

Anonymous said...

So, you're a dishwasher? WHY? You can do so much better than that. You realize your aunt writes resumes for a living and would happily help you with yours, if you're interested.

I'm just saying.

Marilyn said...

I found you again!! Army of Dude has a link to your new blog. I've been reading your blog for a long while now and have missed your posts -- a lot!!!

Please, contact -- this is a non-profit group, run by Iraq and Afg combat Vets, who help Vets find jobs. They are awesome!!

Take good care of yourself, Suspect -- you are definitely one of the good guys!!

Anonymous said...

Dude, you would probably be a lot happier if you got laid every night.

Brandon Friedman said...

It's not re-integration. It's re-entry. Like a space shuttle. Some guys hit the angle wrong, burn up in the atmosphere, and end up scattered across the three or four states. Some come in pretty smoothly. Either way, it is not an easy process. Takes a lot of concentration and discipline, but mostly, it takes the same stubbornness that keeps you alive in combat. People underestimate it all the time. I remember standing outside in the cold, a month after I ETS'd in 2004, talking to an Army buddy on the phone saying, "I'm not gonna make it, dude."

One day at a time. It might get worse before it gets better, but it will get better.

Anonymous said...

Suspect, I am so glad you're writing!!!!!
The American Dream can kiss your ass. Iraq or no Iraq, that's the same thing that fucks with a lot of us.
You're here, and you're alive.
Stay articulate. And read that article on self-publishing I sent. BEST!!!! z

Opus said...

Wear the desert boots to work.

Does that solve all of your problems? Turn down the noise and static? Ease the anxiety? Probably not. Your feet and back will feel better, though-- which will free a little slice of your mind to work on other things.

It gets better.
Small steps, one at a time.

Basinah said...

Thank you for the view from your side.
You are admitting and expressing what you are thinking. Far ahead of some in your situation.
Thank you for everything you have done, and continue to do, by your honesty here.

Army LT Keith 1966 said...

After spending 8 total years in the Army I am so godam disenchanted that it hurts...and...I havnt even made theater yet!
The Army is so F'd yet I am an officer and I am supposed to uphold a system that shits on the troops at a dimes notice...I have gotten into more shit defending my guys and actually LISTENING to them, the Army doesnt 'get' me...

You are in my eyes a true hero...and that whole American Dream thing is fiction...I live for my kids and wife, they are my true American Dream...

Keep on 'keepin on' wash those F'n dishes and know that people do care about you...I would be honored to shake your hand.

Lt K

Anonymous said...

Every time I hear Pantera it takes me back to '93 when I o.d.'d on Skoal Bandits in the back of my buddy's primer gray '70 Chevy Nova. I ate half that can and puked all over his back seat.

Rock on, Suspect.

membrain said...

I have absolutely no idea what to say to this after all of the above comments. Other than your writing just gets better and better.

NUGHT said...

I loved being a dishwasher before i joined the army. Nobody fucks with you when your in the pit. I would escape to my wierd little world inside my head and scheme and plot. The only thing that ive found thats remotely close in the army is when im ruck marching. I get to drift off into a thought polooza and completely forget and block out whats going on around me.

The civilian world is alot like the army in the sense that you have to check the box. I think you should get back in school. Not for the education, but so that you can put direction to your life. Decide on what it is you want to do, make a plan, and do it. thats all I got man...

Jenni said...

you could always be a "murse"