This will be painful for me. I will pick scab, twist bone, open jars. I will allow you to look through my eyes, to feel what it’s like to be me.
I wake in the night eyes wide open. The echoes of a scream bounce around the dark room. The scream fades to nothingness. My heart thumps the inside of my ribcage like a panic crazed rabbit trapped in wire. I gasp in a full breath, which seems like my first. Every muscle has fired. What just happened? I feel beaten, I remember (The Nightmares of Others).
I always sit with my back to the wall, aware, ready. I anticipate the worst and dread it’s arrival. An overwhelming sense of doom begins to build in the center of my chest. Dark shadows hide imagined threats to the farthest edges of my World. Tears press against the backsides of my eyeballs for no apparent reason. Something is about to happen, I can feel it on my skin and in the air I breathe. I hear hoof beats as I walk in the Valley of the Bones.
Some of us are Protectors. We appoint ourselves to watch over the Flock, the Herd, the Pack, the Tribe. We cannot do otherwise. I was raised to be a Protector being the oldest of four and by a father who believed in the old scripture, “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” I took beatings early and sometimes for my younger brothers and sister. I became numb to pain.
Later, when the playground bullies would make themselves known, classmates came for me. I was bigger than almost everyone else, I still am. I became numb to the fist.
Today, if I witnessed someone committing violence on a weaker person, I would have to find a way to make it stop. I know this about me and I prepare for my future battles. I still train for the fight.
My mind responds to echoes of the Past and dances in that dust of long ago. I am reminded of things at strange times and in strange ways. It happened again just the other day.
I had nothing to do as I sat in the ruined foundation of another man’s dream. Here, on the edge of the frontier, Langford had built an imposing two story structure of boulder and mortar, chinked together to last the ages. He had fought rattlesnakes and Mexican bandits to hold onto this dream. In the end the Restorative Hot Springs Bath could not stand against the ravages of the Rio Grande. Countless floods had their way with the old building leaving only four low stone foundation walls. The hot spring water still follows some old chase and then overflows and spills from the foundation into the river.
The Sky was steel grey and just a breath of wind as I dip myself into the waters up to my neck. This day would not rise above 70 degrees. The Rio Grande was as high as I’ve ever seen it and filled the banks between Texas and Mexico with small white caps. I lazed away a couple of hours soaking in the 104 degree spring and having pathetic conversations with transient tourists. I watched as they came, one after another, down the narrow path between the river and a cliff of stacked rock. They came huffing and puffing and I recognized most by their new hats.
One of the visitors stuck her foot in the pool for less than 3 minutes, withdrew her leather bound travel journal from her new backpack, and wrote of the experience for 6 minutes. Her red faced hubby squatted on a nearby rock, his mind lost in thoughts of work. I was glad not to be them – not to meet them.
I glimpse ancient pictographs painted against the cliff face and was reminded of another time monument which I can measure my Life against. What was important to Mr. Langford and these ancient people has no meaning today. A calm peace settles around me.
I am having another perfect day when…
A young mother and her son Abe arrive and enter the pool. Abe is a rambunctious 2 ½ year old. He’s a tow head and has a round pot belly of a new born pup. His energy is boundless as he begins to climb on the stone wall that divides the raging Rio Grande from the calmer waters of the hot spring.
I can see a possible future where Abe tumbles head first over the stone wall and into the swift water. The Mother is distracted and unaware of the danger. I have lived a life where dead children have been pulled from murky waters, the images are locked in my Mind, I am Witness. The memories begin the Dance, my mind and body react to the past. I am a time traveler but I can only go back into my own past – to live it again. Troubled I get up and leave the pool but I take up a position downstream (just in case). Thankfully a high clump of river reed blocks my vision of Mother and Son and river and rock.
My heart pounds – my mouth is as dry as cotton – my vision narrows – echoes ring in my ears – Adrenaline courses through me – I am entirely aware and on point – I am ready for anything. Its’ the old Fight or Flight reflex and I’m trained to Fight.
Outwardly nothing shows as the storm rages. Inwardly I begin to have the same old conversation with myself. “It’s nothing Rat – relax – be cool.”
I hear the mother call out “ABE – ABE!”
I run to the water’s edge and begin to visualize how I will spot Abe in the river. He will be face down and head first in the current and nearer the Mexican side. I will have to swim hard to reach him. I can see all of this. Every nerve has fired – I know this feeling – Its all up to me.
Abe comes running down the dirt path with his Mother right behind. She coos and chases him in a bent over goose fashion. They both scream with delight as they pass by me, standing and watching for ghosts at the river’s edge.
© 2015 – 2016, Michael Fulcher. All rights reserved.