The cobalt dress was taut around Carter Graham’s hips, the nylon thigh-hose stretched smooth and the blonde wig that he made out of Janet’s scalp fit radiantly snug over his short, salt-and-pepper hair. The pumps were far too small so he had to slit the sides of the black leather to make his feet slip into the shoes. Sitting at the dressing table, Carter fumbled about in Janet’s jewelry box, primping and fussing, trying on different pieces to achieve that distinctive look. The make-up strategy was harsh and gaudy, the scarlet lipstick a bit too thick and became smeared from his unskilled attempts to apply it. An synthetic pearl necklace was selected and Carter clasped it around his neck, followed by a pair of pearl studs which he punctured through the lobes of each ear. He stood before the full-length mirror and turned, spun and swayed, mugging at his reflection. Small plastic bottles, pills, capsules and tablets were sprinkled on top of the tawny carpet. Clozaril, Depakote, Zoloft, Luvox, Trazadone – a gathering of pharmaceuticals; slow-motion comfort and fast-frame, accelerated nourishment. A magnificent cocktail that swept your life under a national security rug and wrapped you in medicated swaddling. The simple, country songs of Hank Williams and Patsy Cline pervaded the bedroom, while hearty swigs of luscious bourbon smoothed the edges.
The erratic, unpredictable emotional and psychological behaviors began just a few months upon his return from the unforgiving deserts of Iraq. Discharged from the stifling heat, the desiccated terrain and aggressive sunlight, Carter was tossed back into a frightening and now unfamiliar society. The slap-and-tickle life that everyone sloshed through, bickered, quarreled and moaned about, yet so coveted. There was never any comfort, no time for contemplation, just an incessant barrage of flashing, strobe-light images, blaring, yap-yap-rapping sounds and thundering bass-lines saturating the American way of life.
When Johnny comes crawling home again, hurrah! hurrah!
No parades were given, no handshakes offered and no keys to the city were ceremoniously granted. The cracks to fall through were becoming wider these days and the darkness below the grating was hostile and unmerciful.
Carter found out that he could not adjust to any of it. He couldn’t fit in and eventually caved-in and decided that he did not want to.
After the turmoil he had witnessed, the sanctioned use of brutal aggression and premeditated terror he knowingly participated in, Carter could not simply return to Wheel of Fortune after supper, Starbucks Colombian or baggy-pants adolescents. Entertainment celebrities, sports stars and corrupt CEO’s were strutting up and down the red carpet, saturated with ludicrous salaries and worshipped in their respected fields as role models. Fifteen minutes of fame became hour-long, weekly television shows where the hateful, self-absorbed, soft-headed, two hundred-dollar-hair-styled herd clamored for the million dollar prize by demonstrating to obese couch potatoes just how rugged they were by eating grubs and holding their breath under water for two minutes. Carter knew the sadness, the incongruity of it all, the pain and isolation of being abandoned and betrayed by a nation and by those he trusted and confided in.
They could never walk in his shoes, never have gone through, let alone survived the hardship and severe stress he faced on a minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour basis. His wife tried to understand, at first she attempted to support him but eventually sought to only pacify him then she too became an outsider, an intruder into his lost world growing ever distant and ignorant of the blight that ate its way into his soul, wormed its way deep into his psyche and obliterated his humanity. He went into the Gulf War as a confident, dedicated, clear-headed man and he returned as a damaged, slack-jointed toy prone to vicious, demented outbursts and psychopathic fantasy. All of the physicians, the medical personnel at the Veteran’s Hospital encouraged the excessive liberal use, the cover-your-ass, inexhaustible procession of eclectic anti-anxiety, anti-depressant, anti-psychotic, anti-anything-and-everything medications to try and keep his – as well as all of the other war victims – mind swerves from going off the standard charts.
They told him that his symptoms were temporary, stress-related from the field of combat and that other servicemen similar to Carter had gone through it and recovered with remarkable success. PTS-fuckin’D, but with the contemporary treatments and one-to-one and group therapies that were available today, an effective transition to a post-war life had become relatively unproblematic and quite commonplace.
The doctors persuaded him, patronized and humored him to have total confidence in their learned knowledge and trust in the established government protocols and the procedures that guided their enlightened hands.
After all the declarations that rolled off of their tongues and the axis diagnoses and the official reports that were hot off the presses, he reasoned that his medication was a vulgar, document-driven conspiratorial joke played against him and Carter eventually discontinued taking his doses.
He knew best. Theirs was nothing more than folly.
“So what do you say now, girl?” Carter screeched at the mirror and waved his fingers at the ludicrous image, shifting his hips back and forth and kicking his legs up in an awkward, barnyard dance. He pranced over to the bathroom and looked at Janet’s plump body which was kneeling and bent over the edge of the bathtub. Carter sashayed, wiggled and giggled as he pranced across the cool ceramic tiles. He stood over his scalped wife’s body, leering, then stuck his tongue out and wagged a saucy finger at her.
“My dear sweet Janet, you are such a nasty tease!” He squealed childishly as he kneeled down behind her, pushed her dress up around her waist and pulled down her panties. His mind was spinning, soaring and roaring on the whirlwinds of a chemical climax bubbling straight to the top of the charts. No feelings of regret or sorrow encroached his domain. He became a sadistic changeling, a blazing, savage entity from a dimension of the absurd, the abstract plane of lunacy.
“OH, NO! A STRING? NOW, THIS WILL NOT DO!”
Carter screeched as he yanked the tampon roughly out of her flinging it over his shoulder where it slapped onto the white-tiled wall, then slid snail-like, downwards until it plopped atop lid of a hamper basket.
He beat out a frenetic samba rhythm with his hands, slapping her milky-white, pudgy and dimpled thighs and all the while wailing a nonsensical, improvised song. Grinding his hips and groin against her exposed bottom, Carter was overwhelmed by the satiny feel of the sheer dress material on his hard penis.
Raising the front of his costume he went in slowly, smoothly, then pushed jaggedly, sadistically and deep, then finished quickly. He fell forward across his wife’s back where his hands massaged her bloodstained shoulders. He lay his sweated head down softly between her shoulder blades and closed his eyes.
Pleasant voices once far away, now drifted closer on the slightest of air currents. The sound possessed him, gripped him intimately amidst meandering, sinuous harmonies. Unrestrained, he absorbed this primordial song as it filled his gluttonous belly with a sun-burst of dazzling and splendid jubilation.
No scorching winds blowing through dry sands. No unrestrained screams from inside burning personnel carriers. No innocent families thrown alive and breathing into improvised, bulldozer-ready graves. No malignant plumes of gas belching from concealed, concrete underground bunkers or the slow-moving, toxic, emerald mists that hugged the rocky terrain, kissing you so sweetly as if it were a cat’s whiskers.
Carter spoke very softly, his voice lethargic and slowing to a dead-man’s crawl. His eyelids fluttered over dilated pupils and the cadence of his heart diminished, spreading outwards like ripples gliding across a lake. Passionate, delicate arms urged, soothed and nurtured him as wings fluttered overhead ever so silently, lifting him from this place, from this earth.