[Fiction xposted to r/nosleep] ‘I will never be anonymous.’

I am alive… an incredible accomplishment all things considered. I have been happier in my current situation in life moreso than I have ever felt in the years leading up to my current circumstances: nice home, fantastic spouse, a home full of rescue animals, and I do not have to work for a living… since I am on total disability and my spouse makes decent money.

My diagnosis is PTSD/agoraphobia, and I have been mostly in remission, I scored a great therapist about a year ago who truly “got through to me”. Everything is technically wonderful, really and truly it is; and I am grateful for the progress I have made. Much of it owed to music- I play in a small, relatively obscure orchestra in an Appalachian city. Each week I brace myself for the one evening I spend with very nice strangers (unrealistic fears of rejection or getting into an accident on the way to or from practice, but I soldier through.)

I imagine I appear to others as an eccentric, nervous soul- I am no where near a *good* musician by any standard: the type of man any good Southerner would shake her pretty head at and say “Bless his heart, he tries!” After practices, I feel pretty good about myself.

*Hey, I made it there without crashing! Everyone is kind! I actually played some music and didn’t embarrass myself: Go me, woohoo!*

I like to pretend while I am there that my only secret is that my dead great-uncle was once a prominent member who made huge contributions to the group several decades ago. (He did, we do not share a surname.) I am happy to be there.

 

I am there for rehabilitation, for all my pretending- my secrets are heavy chains that weigh my psyche to the point where I am unrecognizable to myself. The past I have is frightening involving international politics and subsequently surviving physical and emotional torture thanks to my personal failure out of a program that was meant to train me for a cushy government job that never came to pass.
That If I could live my life over again- I never would have pursued in the first place, and truly never wanted except for the recruiters sweet honey of false praise of my intellect which I desperately craved at the time.

I came from a situation where during my training I constantly interacted with government employees who ‘made it’ and were coaching me- leading me through a batshit crazy breadcrumb trail of endless tutors in a myriad of languages, an unlimited supply of smart pills meant to ‘help me with my workload’ in my studies, and at times, police protection which I was okay with until it all fell apart when the program lost all government funding, I found myself handcuffed to a chair and threatened by the same people who once protected me.

I remember vividly being told how I would never leave that white room, the two uniformed men taking turns in their malicious glee of alternating between vicious insults, forcing me into physical contortions for their amusement- all the while as they read excerpts from a thick book of penal codes of offenses they delighted in sharing that they could charge me: any of them they desired. They could make up whatever ‘evidence’ they required; the terror was in not knowing what they wanted from me. Believe me, I asked. I begged.

Nothing in my training had prepared me for that, there was no inkling that I would ever find myself at the wrong end of the desk prior to those hours spent, my wrists chaffed, as I did not know I could have kept my dignity with silence. I had begun served my country at the age of nineteen, I spent years attempting to secure a coveted position in the local or state police only to be redirected into rigorous linguistic and cultural training to blend seemlessly into an alien culture half a world away.

To pass the test, I should have known to be still, demand a lawyer. I was naïve, undertrained, and from the drugs: deeply unstable already from ever present overwork and exhaustion. I was trained to make polite conversation and to teach the next generation of students who were to proceed me. To play a small part in improving the world, I thought.

Of course I failed, when the restraints were finally released I was a broken man. I was allowed one phone call: my cell phone was dead so I forced to rely on my slipping memory of numbers… which resulted simply in calling my ex girlfriend. We were not friends, but to her credit, she picked me up where they left me at the local police station.

I crumpled in the front seat of her car and she kindly allowed me use of her charger to call my own lover at the time who promptly dropped our relationship immediately- and who could really blame her? My ex’s fiancé was already threatening me over her speakerphone for my audacity to call *his* woman, notwithstanding that the only reason I was able to even recall her number simply on account that it only comprised of a series of only two alternating digits.

I wanted to die, although I did not say as much; so I did not resist as I saw the forboding shape of the psychiatric hospital looming in the grey fog of early morning.

I still do not resent her for that, we were together for several unhappy years prior to our mutual parting of ways. Despite the unhappy years we spent together, she was far from ignorant of how my mind worked.

“Don’t call me again,” were her last words- I still thanked her before I entered the building and checked myself into treatment on my own reconnaissance.

So began my second imprisonment- one in which I spent fourteen days pacing the sterile, L-shaped ward. Several locked doors protecting the world from the broken souls like myself within them.

They took away my smart pills and replaced them with sedatives that did little except depress me further and sap my remaining strength except to walk and think, little more. I passed the time by counting the seemingly endless oversights of the facility to prevent death: The glass panes of the drab portraits of flowers on the walls could be shattered to slice wrist, throat, or other arteries. The bedsheets were thin and long- they were strong enough to make a noose, if I only possessed the motivation. The toilet had enough water and the lid of the tank could be placed over the back of the head to facilitate drowning. There was a single piece of iron rebar in the fenced in prison-like yard that was easily long enough and sharp enough to penetrate.

Yet, I remained an honest and compliant patient regardless.

Outside of speculation, I did not have even the will left to end my life then. My assigned therapist was the head of the hospital itself- who attempted to derail me in my suicide lists by playing a daily ‘game’ where he would ask me to attempt to discern the diagnosis’ of other patients in the privacy of his office.

He said I was brilliant, yet, in contradiction to his assertion indicated my life as a working, contributing member of society had passed as he filed paperwork on my behalf for total disability: inexplicably granted by the end of that summer after my discharge.

From other patients I knew there was a two year wait for even a written reply, much less a court date.

It was only July when I had been required to trade in my shoelaces for rubber treaded socks. My dignity in exchange for seemingly endless sessions of ‘group’ where we sat, glassy eyed all- and tonelessly repeated our failures in rooms without clocks, the purgatory of dehydration beyond tears.

Tears happened on the outside, to those who were yet still whole, unaware that the inner wells of human suffering could dry to dust.

After my discharge, I dreamt of feilds of wildflowers on fire where the blossoms did not burn. A woman in red with bright turquois eyes and a sad smile holding a rose that smelled of pelchior in a world of ash and dust. In the waking world, that woman eventually became my wife, much to my surprise, accepting this shell of my former self with endless patience and love.

It was the very beginning of happiness…and as the years passed, I learned to begin to accept myself as she loved me. Not as the extroverted maverick I once prided myself to be- but as a pensive dreamer lost within my own nightmares following her light and soundless steps out of my labyrinths of night terrors. Slowly, I began to see daylight from within, but always I remained a stranger to my new self.

Tonight was warm for January; during rehearsal the rain raised a hard crescendo to which even the loudest of our drums could scarcely compete. So we paused, waiting for it to pass.

Beside me, an older gentleman of nondescript features noticed the tattoos of fire and roses running up both my arms and asked for the story behind them to pass the time. (I had learned the endorphins released during the healing of tattoo ink silenced my mind temporarily a few years prior.)

As we spoke, I discovered he had succeeded in his youth where I had failed, long retired from a satisfying career in the agency which trained me so long ago. The rain stopped and I promised to tell him my story before we left.

“I have been meaning to speak to you,” he said while lighting his cigarette on the porch of the church which held our practice. The sky began to brighten as the world I had begun to love disappeared…I felt my wrists tighten and endless sky die once more inside those terrifyingly familiar white walls:

“…I told you that you will never leave this room alive you piece of shit.”

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