Your mother is taken aback. She isn't used to the new you. Your father steps in. \n\n"We know son. But you've changed, and you know that. Aren't you sick of always feeling angry?" he asks. \n\n[["Nothing's wrong with me"|"Nothing's wrong with me"]]\n[["I just need to be alone"|"Nothing's wrong with me"]]
But you miss your brother. You think about how long its been since you talked to your family. The fact that you're even opting to be near people is amazing, so different from your first month home, when you talked to no one and bought all your groceries online.\nYou park your car, and [[walk up to them.|meet family]]
So what if you're a drunk? You risked your life for these men, and millions like them. If liquor can keep you illusioned and away from a gun, so be it. \n\n"How ar e uyou men?" you scramble out. Woah. Maybe you're more drunk that you originally thought.\n\n"Wo-oah Ryan! Good to see ya! How've you been?" they call back. \nJody steps forward "We missed you out by the river today. I tried to call you, I guess you were busy. \n\nWho You stretch out your arms to hug him, and apologize, but then you [[hear a voice behind him|Margaret]].
They can't help you. No one can. You're just so goddamn //tired// of this all.\n\nBut you can't tell them that. \n\n"You know what Ma, that sounds great. I just have plans for tonight. We'll talk soon, I promise," you reassure her and then walk to your car before your parents can say anything[[.|bar 3]]
The thing you love about the bar is how little it demands. The bar is familiar. You used to kind of feel bad for the guys who would hang out at bars alone, until you found out how peaceful it could be. The key is to fixate on the sports game that continually broadcasts. Pick a team to root for in the first minute, then act accordingly. Never take your eyes off the TV, and no one will come up to you[[.|entrance]]
You get in your car and drive...\n\t\t\t\t\t\t and drive...\n\t\t\t\t\t\t[[and drive...|drive3]]
Finally, you turn the corner into the cementary where your brother was buried. \n\nYou drive through the countless headstones, gleaming white for a god you stopped believing in so long ago. \n\n//You think about the boy you killed. Did he believe in God? Did God come to him, in the end?// \n\nThen you see them. Your family. It must be Sunday. \nDo you [[turn back|turn back]]? Or [[head forward|family]]?
You dream about the last time you saw Marg. \n\nIt was way back at your homecoming party. Margaret was dazzling in her red party dress, kneelength. \n\nYou fingers tightened around your beer as you watched Jody wrap his arm around her waist. \n\nHe was there for her when you weren't. You understood. But it didn't make that letter any easier to read. But no hard feelings, right?\n\n[[--|cop car]]
You get in your car and drive...\n\t\t\t\t\t\t[[and drive...|drive2]]
You wake up with a start. \n\nYou realize you're lying in a pool of your own sweat. It's that one fucking dream, the one where you throw a grenade to who you think is an armed man while on patrol and when the smoke dissolves you see a small boy, maybe 7, with his face sunken in now and his arm blown clear off. Fuck that dream.\n\nWhat day is it? What month is it? Your mattress is placed on the floor, surrounded by piles of dirty laundry. The walls of your room are pretty unadorned, only decorated by your war medals hanging on crooked nails. You thought maybe it'd be a little like exposure therapy to keep them up there. Think about the war, dream about the war, and soon it'll just be another happening in your life. As if. \n\nYou reach over the side of your bed and realize you're out of beer. Might as well [[check the fridge|fridge]] for some.
After a crossword puzzle, paired with a meal that you knew was good but you just couldn't bear to eat without a beer to wash it down, you head back into your room. \nYou realize it is exactly the same way you left it. It was bigger in your memories, where you spent so much time reading or working out in solitude. Even while you were growing up, you didn't like spending too much time with people. All anyone in this town talked about was who got pregnant, and who got into what school. All the gossip left no space for substance. Rather than deal with it any more, you got on a plane and headed towards war. \n\nGod, back then your world was so small. \n\nWhat will it take to regain yourself? It seems silly to you that just one small pill could possibly ever heal this explosive pain. But maybe it's worth a shot. You're too tired to fight anymore. Anything to stop this constant collision of past and present in your mind, making life unlivable and wounds unhealable.\n\nEitherway, you still have a loaded gun back home to use whenever you'd like.\n\n\n[[What now?|Veterans]]
''You've reached the end of your game''\n\nDidn't like the ending? Here are some facts about veterans for you:\n\n- The unemployment rate of veterans is 3 percent higher than the rest of the population.\n\n- One in eight troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan from 2006 to 2008 were referred for counseling for alcohol.\n\n- One third of the adult homeless population is veterans, and 70 percent of these suffer from substance abuse.\n\n- Between 11-20% of Veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have PTSD. 30 out of 100 Vietnam Veterans have PTSD.\n\n- 10% of State prisoners are former veterans, with a majority having served during a wartime period\n\n- 22 veterans take their lives every day.\n\nI hope this has helped you understand PTSD more, and that it urges you to //do something//. \n\n\n\n\n//(Sources: , , , ,\n\n
//''Warning: VERY graphic. I personally watched this with the sound off. An alternative is reading the wikipedia page -'' //\n\n<html><object width="480" height="385"><param name="movie" value=""></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="480" height="385"></embed></object></html>\n\n[[End game|Veterans]]\n\n
A small lie. Whatever, it's fine. Anything to get them off your back. \n\n"Yeah, I even have a new girlfriend and everything. I mean, we met online, but-" you start\n\n// You wonder about the boy, and whether the woman he was destined to marry, if that's how it works anyways, will know what she lost//\n\nYou feel your father's hand on your shoulder now. "Son, please."\n\nDammit. He could always call you out when you were bullshitting. \n\n[["It's just so infuriating that you guys don't think I can take care of myself! I went to a fucking war for God's sake!"|war]]\n\n[["Or, I mean, I could if I wanted to. It's fucking hard. Everything's different."|different]]
"We know. Your father knows, your grandfather, they all went through the same thing. We're an army family. We understand," your mother says quietly. \n\n"Then why the fuck would you let me go?" you reply. \n\n"Don't you remember how enthusiastic you used to be? You wanted to go. There would have been no stopping you from going," your father reminds you.\n\n"I just want to stop thinking about it. The pills they gave me don't work," you confess. Anxiety overrides your body. It feels like rigor mortis, everything is locking and shutting down. You want to stop talking about the war right now. \n\nYour mother studies your face, trying to sense you out. \n"Why don't you spend the night with us, sweetie? We'll give you a good meal and stay out of your way, and if you're up for it tomorrow we can start talking about what our course of action should be. I just want to make sure you're safe," she says. \n\nYou feel your heart crumple. God, your mom always has a way of knowing how to make you cry. \n\nMaybe you should [[go home.|home]]\n\nOr maybe all you really need is a [[beer.|bar 2]]
The pain from the back of your head bouncing against the front of your car seat wakes you up. You hear a low murmur coming from the front row of the car, to which you are separated by a cage. \n\n"God, I hate arresting veterans. It just makes me feel like shit, you know?" one voice says. \n\n[[''//Shit.//''|Veterans]]
It's been a while since you visited your brother. God, you've been itching to <i> do something </i> for so long now. You change into fresh underwear and sweatpants, grab your car keys, and step outside. \n\nThe fresh air almost stops you in your tracks. Its so foreign to you now, so unlike your cramped apartment. \n\nYou get in your car and [[drive.|drive1]]
You think about how you can probably count the amount of people you've talked to in the past week on one hand. But you like it better this way.\n\n"We can talk about this over dinner, if you'd like," your father offers.\n\n"All I wanted was to talk to John. Some kind of fucked up family reunion this is," you say.\n\n"Ryan, this isn't easy for us either. But, we'll leave you now," your father says. You sigh in relief. Your father pretends not to notice. "C'mon Karen, let's go."\n\nAnd that's that. You are now left [[alone.|with grave]]
"Ryan, it's good to see you." Margaret calls to you from behind Jody. Your old high school sweetheart, looking as gorgeous as ever. She had on a red dress, tight enough to show off her curves, especially the bump on her stomach...\n\n//You think about that boy again, with the sunken in face. You wonder what his mother did for a living, and what her last words to her son were.//\n\n"Who hte fuckc fid thsis?" you hear yourself say. You struggle to stand up and knock a chair over in the process. It falls with a loud clatter, and Jody instinctively reaches out his arm to create a barrier between you and Margaret. \n\n"Jodydye, whO the FUCK od you thb ink you are? i wAS in a FUKCIN WAR for GOd's sake! what KInd of man doeos that?" you yell. You can't tell the difference between where you start and end but you take a swing at Jody anyways.\n\nYou feel the band of boys pull you back from Jody, while the bar manager yells something about calling the police. You don't care. You pick up the nearest chair and swing it around, [[beckoning Jody to come near.|more yelling]]
"I know darling, I know. Listen, I know this really great psychiatrist down by-" your mother starts.\n\n"Doctors don't do shit! I do well enough on my own!" you yell back. \n\n"Can we please do this some other place?" your father sounds tired. He's getting old. "Listen, why don't you have dinner with us? You look like you could use a good meal." \n\nBut this makes you nervous. God, you could use a drink. \n\n"I can take care of my own. I don't need this," you say as you back away from them. \n\n"He'll come around on his own," you hear your father say as you turn away towards [[your car.|driving]]\n\n
Except for this time. Fuck, fuck, fuck! A group of boys, your age but seemlingly <i>lighter</i>, walked in an recognized you. Tom, your old high school friend, led the pack and waved his arm high in the air in case you hadn't noticed him already. Wait, it's Tom, right? In your fuzzy trance you glance down at your array of empty beers in front of you. Jesus, how long have you been sitting here for? They're gonna think you're a drunk[[.|drunk]]
As you stand, you feel your bones croaking from disuse. You shuffle to your kitchen, barefoot, until you're right in front of the fridge. You hear your phone ring at a distance, but you ignore it.\n\nYou open the fridge. Mostly empty, except for a half empty bottle of beer. You pick it up and take a swing. \n\nAs you close your fridge, you glance at the pictures that adorn its doors. \n\nSome were taken at home. One is particular catches your eye. It's a picture of you and Margaret in the hospital, one arm, the one with the cast, being held up triumphantly while the other holds your laughing girlfriend. Well, ex-girlfriend now. You were gone for too long, and Jody's //such// a fuckin great guy... \n\nGod, she was amazing. Maybe you could win her back, someday.\n\nThe others are in the war, you, your friends, and [[your brother|brother visit]] huddled close together in front of a sandy landscape.
Your words shock them. You can't remember the last time you spoke to them in a mellow tone. \n\n"Oh, Ryan!" your mother calls out as she leaps into your arms. "I can't stand this, I haven't seen you in weeks and I've been worried sick!" \n\nYour arms feel like lead by your sides. You're almost embarrassed at how frantic your mother is. She realizes this, and slowly recoils form you as you say:\n\n[["Ma, it's okay. I'm fine. I even found a job!"|lie]]\n[[Please get a grip Ma. I'm a grown man"|curt]]
Over your mother's shoulder, you can see your brothers headstone. It gleams white with false purity. To impress who, you don't know. \n\nJAMES ANTHONY DAVIS\nLCPL\nUS MARINE CORPS\nSEPT 15 1983\nJUN 28 2004\nOPERATION\nIRAQI FREEDOM\n\nYou miss your brother so much, it chokes you up. Maybe he would get it, maybe he would get you. You stopped asking yourself why you lived and he didn't a long time ago. Death is brutally without reason. \n\nYou realize you've been standing in silence for some time. \n\n[["It's nice to see you all again."|mourn]]\n
You get down on lush grass and lean against the front of the gravestone. The cool marble feels icy against your skin, but it feels nice. \n\n"Its, its been a while hasn't it? I guess I've just been feeling guilty. I have a lot to be guilty for," you say. \n\nYou slide your body down so that you lay directly above where your brother's body should be. You close your eyes and try to feel something. Anything. \n\n//You wonder if the boy you killed ever got burried.//\n\nGod, wouldn't it be great to lay where he is? In truth, you've thought about this for a while. It would stop all your flashbacks about stuff you should have never seen. And anyways, it's not like you really have much to be proud of. Maybe this would restore some balance, for all the lives you took. \n\n[[You decide you need a drink.|bar]]
They don't notice you as you slowly walk forward to them. Your mother is sitting on her ankles, her head down and you see her lips move to form some type of hymn, your father by her side. You step on a twig and it breaks. Your mother's head whips around in fright, but maybe she's even more scared when she see's that it's you. Still, nothing is said[[.|brother's headstone]]
"mARGAregt! Youb still loev me, right? You cnaa't love thsis COwardx!" you call out. "BAyby, pelaese." You can't even see her, everything's so blurry. \n\nYou take a step forward, and feel your foot slip out from underneath you. Suddenly, [[everything goes black.|Memory - Marg]]
Fuck your parents anyways. All they did was push you into a war that made everyone else hate you. \n\nYou drive back into town. You find a decent parking spot, and slip inside the bar's cool wooden doors. \n\nThe bar is familiar. You used to kind of feel bad for the guys who would hang out at bars alone, until you found out how peaceful it could be. The key is to fixate on the sports game that continually broadcasts. Pick a team to root for in the first minute, then act accordingly. Never take your eyes off the TV, and no one will come up to you[[.|entrance]]
Fuck them anyways. They gave you these broken genes, a malleable mind with malleable morals. It's their fault you're like this. \n\nYou turn into the highway, and press your pedal down to gain speed. \n\nFuck everyone. You go on a mission to try to make the world a better place, and when you get there you're greeted with bullets. So you have to retaliate. You shoot in order to assure that you'll stop being shot at. And then you see innocent people get shot at, get blown to bits, and you grip your gun even tighter and keep marching on. \n\nThe overarching fear. You were always trying to outrun it. You go over and you're afraid to die, and then you come back and you're afraid to live. \n\nIf you could just get one more fight in, maybe you'll feel normal. \n\nYou hear a police siren behind you. [[Now's your chance.|chase]]
Your car screeches to a halt. You can visit your brother later, but right now you just can't deal with the false pity your family always throws at you. They're scared of you, really. They see the dark look in your eye, the way your body tenses at the slightest noise, always on alert, always on patrol. But they're ashamed, they're scared of the man who came back from war. All they did was make sure you took your pills, because they didn't know how else to help. \n\nWhatever, it's fine. You could just [[get a drink|bar]].
Dominique Escandon