"I Don't Dream Anymore"

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic

Dreams are our escape from the reality before us, around us and inside us. They are a respite from the insaneness and the maddening daily existence that assaults are sensibilities and our lucidity. It is the escape valve for our insecurity and our anxieties.

“I DON’T DREAM ANYMORE”

By Al Garcia

Dreams are our escape from the reality before us, around us and inside us.  They are a respite from the insaneness and the maddening daily existence that assaults are sensibilities and our lucidity.  It is the escape valve for our insecurity and our anxieties.

In Vietnam, dreams were our reality, and everything else simply a jumble and muddle of hallucinations and delusions.  Dreams were what kept our hopes alive, and our souls content.  The Everly Brothers must have been thinking of lonely soldiers when they wrote: “Dream, dream, dream.  When I want you in my arms.  When I want you and all your charms.  Whenever I want you.  All I have to do is dream.  Dream, dream, dream.  When I feel blue in the night.  And I need you to hold me tight.  Whenever I want you.  All I have to do is dream.”  And so, in Vietnam we dreamed.  We dreamed to survive and to maintain our sanity, and our lifeline to the waiting reality back home.  A reality devoid of the living hallucinations and delusions that defined our existence in a land so far from home.

And I thought this was true for everyone around me in Vietnam.  Everyone dreaming of getting out of this place and dreaming of faces and places that relieved and calmed the nightmare of trying to survive in a world that was trying its best to devour and consume our very essence, our very souls.  And, I was wrong.

There was a boy, not yet a man, that I met during one of my many excursions in search of a story.  It was at an outpost near the Cambodian border, high up on a mountain top, overlooking a lush green canopy of tree tops and some visible meandering worn paths, etched into the beautiful landscape.  Isolated and alone, this small cadre of American GIs stood watch for the enemy.  Nightly assaults and incoming mortars kept them vigilant and wary.  I had arrived by helicopter earlier in the day, and now, as the evening approached and a star peaked through the darkening sky, I sat with this young soldier (yes, young than I) on a pile of sandbags, and we talked.

He had been at this outpost four months, and in Vietnam just as long, right out of bootcamp after an “advanced” course in killing at Fort Benning, Georgia.  He seemed a bit “wound up” and talkative.  He was 19 years old, from Oklahoma.  His father was a farmer, his mother a farmer’s wife.  Two sisters, lots of aunts and uncles and cousins, of course, two dogs, a pick-up truck he got during his senior year in high school, and a high school sweetheart – typical All-American kid.  And we talked.  And in the approaching veil of darkness, we could hear small caliber fire in the distance, and see and even hear helicopters in the distance.

Our conversation, of course, came back to his base, his home away from home.  He told me that from the moment he got here, the gunfire, the mortar barrages, even the sudden quietness, never stopped.  I asked him if he was looking forward to returning home and resuming to his life.  It was then that he paused, and without looking at me, just staring right ahead, he said, “I guess so.  It’s just that, just that I remember everything, but I can’t seem to see their faces or remember the sound of their voices anymore.”  “What do you mean,” I asked.  “Well, at first, when I got here, I used to eventually fall asleep through the sounds of incoming, and I used to dream about back home. But I’d wake up feeling sad.  The only thing I think about or see when I fall asleep now is being overrun by Charlie.  Of feeling a bullet strike my head, and not feeling anything, and then thinking, so, that’s what it feels like to be shot.  So, I try not to dream anymore.”  We sat atop the sandbags for a while as darkness eventually hid the valley below, and quietness engulfed the camp, at least for a while. 

How many others so far away from home, were also afraid to dream?  How can anyone live and not dream?  For dreams are what make the impossible probable, and the improbable conceivable. War, I learned, can destroy all that it touches, the body, the soul, and even dreams.


Submitted: June 18, 2021

© Copyright 2021 A.Garcia. All rights reserved.

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Comments

panteleon

I am very glad that you told this story, A.Garcia even after all these years. What an awful situation for a young man to find himself living through.

I believe that soldiering has moved on for some people. I have had some fine conversations with men and women for whom soldiering is about upholding human rights.

All very difficult to understand and achieve. Thank you for telling this story about the semi-death of the human soul. I hope the young man made it home.

Fri, June 18th, 2021 3:41pm

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