Saturday, March 28, 2009

Strangers

I met a man the other day, in a Jack in the Box. We'd gone in for dinner- My family and me- and there he was; just hanging out. He was homeless I think, But he was more just hanging out for the company. He was very nice, in his own way. But as we ate our dinner, and he got to talking, we could tell he wasn't entirely... sound. He started out with smaller, easier topics; family, jobs. He told us about the family he'd had; 'had two kids, a son and a daughter.' He rambled about a hundred different things, mind never settling. He couldn't seem to keep his mind still, always one jump ahead of the shadows, trying to connect with whoever would listen... cuz he had a story to tell.

He told us how he'd been a Green Beret in Korea. My brother was in the army, and the mention was enough for him to latch onto us. For a while, he still flitted back and forth, From the end to the beginning and back again, not quite hitting what he needed to say, what he needed to release. joined up at 17. he was a medic. met his wife through the army. He was 'always patchin up the stupid newbies.' As he talked, he became more focused, more... not really calm, but in control. the more he said, the more he could say... It hurt, watching him wrestle through the fog... like watching a drowning man struggle for the shore.

He finally got to the point he needed to say. He talked about his work in Korea, the things he'd seen.. and done. It made me want to cry. the atrocities and horrors he'd had to, not only witness, but take part in... the kinds of things that give you nightmares, that bind you with guilt for your entire life... all so he could survive.

It made me hurt so badly for him... Watching him try to come to terms with it. Watching him wrestle with the right and wrong... and not being able to quantify it. Such utter helplessness... the things he's had to go through, the harsh realities he's had to face, have left him so scarred and mutilated he can no longer think straight... 'a braincase,' by his own definition...

He talked until they closed, and we had to go, desperately needing to unload his burden. Needing someone, anyone, to listen. I have the feeling few have spared the time. He was so helpless...
I don't pretend to know what its like to do the things he's done, to carry that burden for so long. I don't know how it feels to be in those situations and, with God's grace, I never will.
But I saw the scars, the raw agony, the marks it's left on him. I felt the torture, festering in his heart; never letting him rest, never finding any peace, to the point where it felt like death would be a sweet release for him. the only rest... I haven't seen what he's seen. But I've seen the bloody mess it's left him.
There is no truth, but war is hell.

I met a man today... in so much pain, I thought my heart would break.

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