I hear that there are reasons people start fires, most belong to young kids or teens. Curious or attention seeking usually but sometimes antisocial, it usually lets up by early adulthood. So when the girl in group starts to explain her fixation on fire I sit up a little more than usual. I mostly just sing radio songs in my head through these meetings. I agreed to attend them as part of my probation the day I got into Vets court, but so far they are just bullshit. Still some days the stories are worth it. The girl is about twenty and dark haired, looks kind of country to me in that second hand clothes store style she is wearing but is pretty and can tell a story. She says she started young, burned down her fathers shed the year she got her period. Admits that she was hoping to get taken from her home, only in the small town she grew up in no one seems to notice a young girl until she ends up pregnant. She goes on to describe the beating her father gave her after, and how he seemed to enjoy it too much at the time, and how after that all his discipline was physical. Open hand slaps become closed fisted punches as she got bigger. She in turn sets bigger and bigger fires, a neighbor’s barn, never suspected, to a small gas station her first arrest. When she talks about going home after her first time in jail I see the ghosts that haunt her house stretch across her face as she forces back tears. In that pale yellow light I find her beautiful.
Instead of college she tends bar and gets mixed up with a volunteer fireman, real red neck type who spends his nights listing to his police scanner and dreams of being the fire chief some day. She tries to convince herself that she starts fires because he somehow wants her to, she says. She knows this by the books he leaves around the house and the voices she now hears inside her head when ever he leaves for the station. Now this should be a big red flag in my head. I was always attracted to but a little afraid of crazy women. I do not like drama and they are hard to get rid of when it’s all inevitably over, but my experiences in the year I have been home from Afghanistan have changed my understanding of crazy in ways I am still trying to process. I have seen ghosts and heard voices nightly since I got back. I know it was the voices that made me follow that college girl around until she had me picked up by the police. I also know I only drink until the ghosts leave that I decided to drive home after was a lapse in judgement I am still paying for. Busted DUI for the third time in a year I got an ankle monitor fines and would have done hard jail time at the county if they had not offered me an in with the veterans court system. I attend these groups at least 2 times a week in exchange for my freedom. Not too bad but I need to be careful what I say, I mostly talk about addiction but never mention the war. I never mention the voices.
Some small and still rational part of me knows that what I should do here is get some real help. Tell this therapist about my flashbacks and nightmares. Try to figure out how to get the demons in my head to not want to kill me. I know this the way a kids knows he should take an umbrella but leaves without it. I have been walking in this rain for almost eleven months now. Still, watching this girl unwind her life in front of complete strangers only convinces me that this is all a trap. She will be diagnoses and labeled here, maybe offered medication that she will take like wearing handcuffs. I think for a split second about the faint hope I had when I started this group last month, to finally feel better if not normal. To get my life together enough to maybe live on my own again. Instead I decide to listen yet again to the voices of dead soldiers wailing around inside of my head. They constantly point me towards the biggest head aches and poorest choices. They plan to do me in one day I just know it. Today in this room all I can hear is them promise me that this girl is all I ever wanted, and all we both need to really get strait, is love.