Warrior Stories: In the Dying there is Sweetness

From the archives: 10 October 2016

In the dying there is a sweetness. A hollow place within which there are endless possibilities – a spot where we are forced to choose our own design, our own willed destiny.


    With possibility comes a raging inner turmoil, a fear impossible for us to get out of our systems, a fog that has eclipsed our reason and shrouded our eyes to the thing that we are and the thing we can become – if we choose to do so.


    Memories float in the dying space. Like those weird spots and squiggles that float across our ocular fluid when we squeeze our eyelids shut against the light. Or the darkness.


    First, earliest memories are always supposed to be the sweetest. The kindest.


    I remember watching the bridge fall up and away from me, but I also remember not being scared, even as I watched him walk away. The water in the creek was cold that day, hard on my back when I first hit. The shock cost me my breath and I sank, the summer afternoon shimmering as the water closed over me. 


    My first dying place. The beginning of the monsoon of anger and rage roiling over and around me. A maelstrom not of my own making. I was six, soaking wet, gasping for air, forced to save myself. I was six when I was labeled a liar.


    The lying came easy. I learned from the best. As long as everything was good on the surface, that’s all that mattered.


    There was the father lie, that until I was twelve. Somehow, the war in Vietnam became another woman (guess it’s easier to make yourself a victim that to admit than you’re so awful the going to war was preferable). My aunt died when I was 13, then walked into my dad’s house 30 years later. She looks great for someone who was dead for 30 years. I hope I look that good when I’m resurrected.


    There were lies to impressed people who never should’ve mattered. Being paraded around like trophies, while moving from house to house, county to county and, finally, to another state – all to escape CPS intervention (which would’ve been the best thing to happen to me, I suppose).


    Never taught how to be forthright, never shown how to make a good decision, the first one I ever made took me into the military – an event met with “God you’re so stupid! Only whores and dykes go into the military, which one are you?” (Holy shit did I love basic training. And the military. I loved having a mission every day. I thrived when I no longer had to lie to cover someone else’s ass.)


    However, I fell back into bad ideas and awful choices. Ended up losing my own children, a homeless drunk with no one left to impress. The lies continued because no one cared.

    I had fulfilled the prophecy utters when I was six – “No one’s ever gonna love you, you’re gonna end up a whore just like your mama.”


    Only she’s not my mama anymore. She’s my gestational carrier. An ugly, far away memory, mixed with so many other ugly, far away memories.


    The dying came again. Two and a half years ago. Surgery to remove a parasitizing tumor from my abdomen cost me my womb and an ovary. I remember being resigned to my fate, there was no fear left in me (not even of bridges anymore) I had survived so many storms that this one didn’t matter.


    Difference as, I had several soul sisters with me, my dad (the one who had left the gestational carrier for Vietnam Germany) and my bonus mom – my mama – and my Undead Aunt. And my husband. All were waiting for me to come out on the other side.


    I went to sleep tired, but woke up like I had slept a thousand years. Before, I was broken, shredded to pieces. Now I am a gypsy shield maiden with unruly silver blonde hair, laugh lines and scars. Born again through the fire – the NCO in my soul alive and kicking and ready to take on all comers.


    Oh yeah, I forgot o tell you. My job in the Army? I was an Engineer, part of a combat construction company, Assault & Obstacle Platoon. I literally destroyed obstacles in the way of our advancement. I blew them up, or bulldozed them.


    Certainly I am not made for subtlety or too much handholding. I was created to lead the way, unashamedly, loudly, and proudly. I have a doctorate in swearing and I’m not afraid to use it.


    No man scares me – I hold the power of life and death with in me and am afraid of neither.


    No longer the fulfillment of the prophecy uttered that summer’s day on the Swan Creek Bridge forty-one years ago.


    Here I stand, reclaiming my status as Bad Ass Bitch and I dare my past to rear it’s head . . .


    So I can throw it into the dying space.


Michele O'Neil

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