First published in The Flying Walrus, 2009
“It’s awful,” Jack says, “living in the wake of the memory that doesn’t exist. That childhood trauma that has had such a profound effect on who I am today. And I hate myself for that.” The time that has passed has no value to Jack. For, when one lives in a world that poses constant threat, there is little hope for time or anything else to shine through.
He sat with his face in his palms, his eyes shut. Jack remembers a time when he was sane. That time in his childhood when he was capable of neither choice nor reason. It seems still, for Jack, that in those times the feelings were more easily expressed. That love was possible. Love was a force foreign to him, because he was so young, yet it still existed. It’s presence; he could decipher, was trapped but at least not abandoned as it has grown for him now. Jack thinks. He remembers that time, now cold and drawn out in his memory, thinking how much longer it would last. The memory is unbearable for Jack. Jack grows cold and drawn out. He used to get very aggravated at the intrusive thoughts.
Jack has lived in his own mind since it happened. He remembers the fear, the confusion. He remembers it all as if intoxicated by his own dissociation. He remembers then the time he was trying to help himself, the time that repressed memory surfaced back into awareness. It was an awful time. I remember. Jack sat there quietly as I tried to comfort him. He pushed me away, rejecting my sympathy. More than anything, he wished for people to understand. “Those feelings that you get. Feelings of love, warmth, security, happiness and sadness are all for me fear. Fear is all I know.” Most of all, he doesn’t want you to think badly of him because he feels like this.
I suppose I saw it as an opportunity for him. He thought differently. I could tell it right away. The memory that was repressed for Jack was now in the open and, though painful, I thought he could deal with it. I guess I never really knew what he was going through. What he had been through. It’s hard to understand someone else because when you look at them, all you see is what you think you would do – that you would try. I never knew how much Jack tried. He says too often that the person he has become is not who he really is. He says that the trauma has taken over his thought process like a mental form of cancer. He wants so much for a normal life, but is afraid that the better he feels, the worse people will think of him. He is ashamed of being happy because he doesn’t know what it’s like. Most of all, he doesn’t want to hurt people.
“It’s not so much the memory,” says Jack, “but the continual reminder of the fact that you had no control. I guess it bothers me that that memory was trapped for so long, like the subject of the prison in which I was in, and that I was so unable to even start to heal because I had no idea. I want to live a life like everyone else but feel so unable.”
Jack tells me from time to time, as the memories surface for him, of the situation that hurt him so much. This flashback was not the only situation. He would describe to me the disgust and the fear. And when he couldn’t decipher the meaning, he would get angry and yell. He would never yell at me but he told me that the anxiety that had developed in him since that first trauma of his life caused him to be a different person. When he would yell, he yelled at no one but himself. It was almost as though Jack had made, somewhere along the line, a choice for everything to go wrong in the future. If he said that, and I know Jack, he only said it because he despised himself so much. He tells me how everyone hates him. And when I look around, all I see is care. I see myself helping him with it.
He tries, he really does. That crime committed on him, when he was just a child, has destroyed who he is today. I couldn’t see it until I met Jack. Now, as if in bitter melancholy, he is trapped in his own mind. Lazily, with a deep contempt of self, Jack raises his shoulders a little and gazing up slowly, he sees that I am still there. A tear appears in his eye as he remembers that I am there and he smiles a pleasant smile. There is hope for Jack. I can see it. Even if he can’t.
I remember Jack when he was very young. He was a beautiful and loving young guy. He was also really scared. I remember he used to hold on to my shoulders, trembling, terrified at the sight of a world outside that can be so cold. He has learned to abandon trust, to abandon love, yet he is isolated and craves attention. That trauma that Jack lived through, for so long, held him back from realizing his potential. It held him back from realizing that the world can be beautiful and loving at the same time. Jack has grown up a bit since then and a lot has changed. He is triumphing over the crimes committed against him. Twenty years have passed since then. The memory remained repressed for most of that time. Jack starts to see that care, but it’s a slow process. Somewhere deep within him, that little child still exists. That child cries tears of happiness as Jack nurtures him with love, the love that he needs.