More from my dear brother deployed in the Middle East:Yesterday the rainy season here started. When I woke up, the sky was overcast. It is always a little overcast, with a layer of fine dust suspended in the air. This time, however, I knew the cover was made of real clouds because it wasn’t so bright out. It didn’t even hurt my eyes when I walked outside without sunglasses.
The groud, which is usually a single shade of pale tan, was mottled all over with areas of deep brown. It was as if the clouds above, even before rain, were drawing up water from the earth that I didn’t even know was there. Water that has survived for months beneath the surface, somehow escaping evaporation in spite of the most compelling sunlight thinkable. And, also, there was a breeze. It was a real breeze too. Almost cool. It was a stark change from the hot wind that I have felt, for months, like a hairdryer in my face. All of these changes combined on the world overnight, so I knew when I woke up that the rainy season had arrived.
I was very busy with patients all day. There was also a change in them. I didn’t see any heat exhaustion or athlete’s foot or rolled ankles like I am used to. Some kind of change had started to draw hidden things out of people too. I spent two hours with a sailor I thought I knew. For two hours she told me the details of a worse childhood than I could have imagined. Memories that she had willfully suppressed for years, that would not be kept down any longer. It was the first time she had spoken some of it, and it was difficult for her to say through the tears and choking sobs. I heard about abuse, rejection, loss, and emptiness that repeated themselves for decades. In spite of the pain, I could sense that purging this filth brought a little relief to the emotional nausea she has suffered for years. I hadn’t known if I could help. I don’t think I am trained to help with these things. But she would not be sent to a chaplain or a psychologist, only me. So I was glad when I sensed in her a little relief.
Soon after she left another sailor came. He, too, was haunted by the past. His memories were especially stinging because the missteps were his own. He has been gone for five months now, and his wife has learned that she really can do it without him, and she intends to. He cried for his loss, he cried for his sense of worthlessness. But mostly, he cried for the agonizing regret. He wishes now that he had cooked dinner for her at least once, or watched the kids for her once while she did her homework, or spoken with her once in the past two years like she was his friend instead of just a wife.
I don’t know if I helped him at all. I hope he helped me know how to avoid such profound regret.
As the sky dimmed a little with evening, an orange light flashed far off in the distance. No more than a flickering glow at first. For an hour, the flicker grew nearer until I could see forks of lightning striking the earth wherever they chose. By the time it was dark, the forks were blue, nearby, and left following thunder. As I fell asleep, I could hear huge drops falling outside, cleaning the sky after months of hard use by the sun and hot wind.