The Vet in the Flashback Loop
At Sandia Casino this tall, burly fellow strode out to my car sometime after midnight. He wore a smile, having had a decent time.
We rolled out and chatted amicably. He’d been drinking, but not so much he was slurring. He brought up that he was a vet, and I asked where he’d been deployed. He said, “Iraq.” He paused. His expression darkened.
I glanced his way a couple times, since he looked like he had something to say. But he didn’t continue. He faced forward, looking out at I-25 through the windshield. I was about to change the subject when he started again.
“That’s where we…”
His voice was low, all mirth from before had fled. The tone was deadpan. “We had to cut up the bodies.”
A chill crept up my spine. He still stared straight ahead, but now I knew he wasn’t seeing the road.
“That’s what we had to do. We had to cut up the bodies.”
I had no reply to this. I made some noise like, “Uh…”
But he wasn’t hearing me, anyway. “We had to cut them up. All of them. We had to cut up all the bodies.”
This gentleman had slipped down a dark hole and it was getting scary. He kept repeating this business about bodies, and I started speeding to get him home. I wanted to snap him out of it, but was unsure if anything I said would do good or harm, maybe spinning him to an even darker place. And if he got violent, well, he was a couple inches taller and at least forty pounds heavier than I.
No other details about his situation in Iraq emerged, his verbal loop was very tight and repetitive. I just wanted to get him home as soon as possible. This went on for about five minutes, until I pulled up into his driveway.
He looked at his house, his eyes focusing on the present. He smiled, turned to me and said, “Thanks, man. I appreciate it.” It was that happy tone he had greeted me with at the beginning of the drive.
He left the car, apparently not even cognizant of his flashback, of being mired in a repetitive verbal loop.
I sighed in relief. And I hoped he was getting some help.