The Price We Pay

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“I am what they trained me to be. I am what they wanted me to be.”

As I looked up I see my PTSD doc had tears in her eyes. I had just finished telling her of one of my scars. She asked for it so I told her what it is like to hold a dead child in your hands and curse the sky.

“Michael do you know what it means to be in a state of Hyper-arousal or Hyper- vigilance?”

“You mean me having my head on a swivel? I was trained to be a human recorder. To see which hand the gun is in, to witness the wounds, to remember everything and be able to testify to the Truth of it all later. I put that shit in my long term memory banks. The military calls it Situational Awareness. I had to live in this state to survive in the World they asked me to bring Peace to. I haven’t found the “OFF” switch. I honed this skill that you now use to identify my PTSD. That’s pretty fucked up.”

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A long pause followed in which she offered no answer. Her question caused me to drifted into my past…

I was on patrol in the dark with another rookie at my side. This one wasn’t getting it. I had worked with him on his skills of observation for the past week. He had the eyes of a civilian and I wanted him to have animal eyes, to see everything. I decided to teach him a lesson. I waited for him to pick a car and make a traffic stop.

We approached the suspect vehicle in the customary manner, the rookie made contact with the driver and I covered him from the rear fender. I noted three occupants besides the driver. We retreat to the patrol car to run checks on the driver.

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The lesson begins…

“Rookie don’t even think of looking up. If you do I swear I’ll make you walk back to the station house. Do you understand me?”

A quiet “Yes Sir” comes out of the rookie.

“Let us imaging another scenario, I just got blasted in the chest by one of the passengers and I’m laying in the ditch with a sucking chest wound. Now let’s imagine that the suspect vehicle has fled the scene. You’re in the ditch with me holding my cigarette pack against my wound and you have your radio in the other hand. Let me hear your broadcast to get me help and to catch those that harmed me – GO!”

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The rookie fumbled – this is what he didn’t know. He had no idea where we were, the color or model of the car, the number of occupants, no part of the license plate. He was clueless.

“What are you gonna do rookie – I need an ambulance?”

“I’m gonna run up to that house and ask for their address.”

“That’s great but who is gonna keep pressure on my sucking chest wound? Are you gonna let me die?”

More stumbling by the rookie. I sensed the great dump of stress I had caused for him. His heart was racing as if these things had really happened.

“Rookie this is serious work we do. Get your head in the game or get out before you get someone killed.”

We kicked the stop without issuing any tickets.

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After this lesson this rookie did have his head on a swivel. He began to notice everything. He became what I wanted him to be and is still a very successful Police Officer.

I suddenly realized that maybe even now he was visiting his PTSD doc and telling them how he became hyper-vigilant and how he came to live in a state of hyper-arousal.

I felt a twang of guilt for having created another like me…

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© 2016, Michael Fulcher. All rights reserved.

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