The Rainbows End: All Fall Down (Dreaming Out Loud)
I was in Baghdad. I was back home.
Part of me was still there and part of me never left Bon Temps. Gran would ask me to pass the salt and I would be back at chow joking with Gyl or Vic about who we had to blow to get something other than MREs. I would be laughing like a crazy person when I happened to look down the table and see Gran still waiting for her salt.
In the night the bombs rained down all around me, and I felt safe there. Here a thunderstorm would send me under the bed with my pillow in a ball. Maybe it was the other way around, and the thunderstorms made me feel safe but the bombs put me under the bed.
A storm is coming…
In Baghdad there were no beds, just graves and cat naps, dug in or propped with Ripped Fuel canisters for pillows. A single pill rattling around could ruin your fifty-six minutes of sleep. There was always a single pill rolling around in me, Sergeant Susan Stackhouse, US Marine Corp, First Reconnaissance Team. I needed that pill because there were no where to hide until it all passed by. I needed the pill to keep my eyes open and my hands on my weapon.
Never drop your weapon. You died for that shit. That was fucking BASIC.
Sometimes, when I couldn’t sleep, I wondered if having my weapon back would end my insomnia. I wondered that sometimes when I was asleep, too, when I dreamed of what happened, and what was still happening in dilated time, when I got a song lyric we used to sing on recon trapped in my head on a repeating loop.
Asleep or awake the bombs fell, they always fell. I always fell. I tried to stop it then and I tried to stop it now. They weren’t targets, they were just people who got in the way. I couldn’t get them out of the way, I couldn’t get them out of my head.
We had watched the village for three hours and declared it to be peaceful. We were packing up to move on when the first one landed. Danger close, the sand raining down on me, burning my face and hands. I tried to run in but Vic stopped me. I fought for all I was worth like I could stand in the way and shield them, like I could make a difference.
“Get it the fuck together, Stackhouse!” she screamed in my ear and I heard her but it wasn’t coming together. This isn’t why we were here, and this isn’t what we were supposed to do! When I rolled her over, ready to roll her off, ready to charge in she took me out with a sharp left. When I woke I was choking on ash and it was over.
Except it was never over. I was always there, trying to get there, even from here. It was never over.
My tag was Ice Princess, because I was cool and collected at all times, especially under fire. I had to find that place again. It was over, except that it was never over.
“If you blow this, Stackhouse you fucking blow it for all of us!” She was right of course. We were the first fucking female recon squad and when they asked me at recruitment if I could take it I had yelled, “Hoo-rah!” like I knew what it meant. When they asked me in BASIC if I could take it yelled, “Hoo-rah!” When they ran me to the bone and asked if I wanted more I yelled, “Hoo-rah!” When they sent me to SEAL and SERE I yelled, “Hoo-rah!” I turned off the part of me that thought and reasoned. I turned off the part of me that felt any goddamned thing at all, and yelled, “Hoo-rah!”
“Hoo-rah!” I yelled back to Vic, because now it was too late to say anything else. “HOO-FUCKIN-RAH!” I screamed to drown them out. I was a cold killing machine. I had been from the beginning. It was too late to try and be anything else forty klicks past enemy lines.
“That’s my bitch! HOO-FUCKIN-RAH! HOO-FUCKIN-RAH!” We screamed it all the way back to base, until my throat was bleeding, until it drowned out the sound of the screams in my ears.
After that day when I started to lose it, when the screams of the dead got too loud I would yell, “HOO-RAH!” until I couldn’t hear them anymore.
I did what I had to do. I didn’t crack and I didn’t bleed. I was a fucking MARINE! Marines don’t fucking bleed unless they get the order!
Ninety days, endless villages and endless dead later my team came up for R&R. Five fun filled days in Phuket. I drank until Gyl and Vic had to carry me back to the hotel. I drank every night and when the drink didn’t do it, I picked fights and when no one would fight I would yell, “HOO-RAH!” until they fucking threw us out of whatever shit hole we were drinking in.
My hand was busted and my nose was broken when we found the tattoo parlor and I was drunk enough to think it was the best fucking idea we had ever had. I had meant to be inked since we hit the sand.
We stumbled in arm in arm and looked at the man behind the counter. I remember I blinked and tried to focus because he was not what I was expecting. “Oh, ladies, check this shit. Johnny Cash is gonna ink us!”
He was a Caucasian, rare enough to find in this part of the world, and an exceptionally good looking one at that. I heard Vic purr beside me, I knew already she was chanting, “GET SOME!” in her head, and knowing her before we left here, she would do just that.
“Ladies,” he said in a deep voice that matched his somber outfit. He oozed sex, and he wasn’t even trying, or maybe that was us, six months in country and just needing to get laid. He had short dark hair and startling green eyes. He was beautiful but I just wanted the ink.
The rest of the night was hazy in my memory. I remember him saying that he would give me that tat I needed, it was karma. I remember telling him to fuck karma and make with the ink. He laughed then. I remember he said his name was Dish, short for Kaddish.
“What the fuck is a Kaddish?” I had asked, still spoiling for a fight even when I was on the table.
“Hymn of Praise to God,” he had answered, his green eyes pinning me down.
“Oh, yeah? You can tell him something for me,” I said. “Tell him I said fuck you!” He had laughed at me.
“He already knows,” and then he went back to the tat. I remember that when he was done I sat up and looked at my right shoulder.
“What the fuck is this?” I had a pair of ruby slippers on me.
“A lady should always be prepared.” I snorted.
“Fuck you, too, Dish.”
“That’s karma for you, somebody’s always gettin’ fucked.”
A storm is coming…
I shot up in my bed, back in Bon Temps, it was the thunder again, and my tat was burning. What the fuck? It was almost three years ago I got this thing, and it had never done this before. I was covered in cold sweat and when I got up I nearly fell to the floor. I caught myself just in time, didn’t want to worry Gran. I already hated the way she looked at me.
I felt like she could see every sorry fucking thing I had ever done or failed to do.
I finally made it the mirror and had to rub my eyes. Those fucking shoes were glowing!
“What the ever lovin’ fuck is this shit?” I rubbed my eyes again.
A storm is coming…
The next morning I was sure I had dreamed the whole thing. Since I made it back state side my dreams had been FUBAR. “Screwby,” Gyl would say and roll her eyes while she polished her gun like it was a lovers cock. She had the cleanest fucking gun in camp. Bet her old man missed the shit outta her.
I missed the shit outta her, too. Her and Vic had been the reason I kept it together after what happened at the village. It wasn’t just my career that I would shit can if the Ice Princess melted. It was theirs and every woman who came after.
Fucking, mutherfucking, HOO-RAH, bitches!
Gran had sent me to the store. I could do that. I could tool through the cool isles and pick out supplies like nobody’s business. I could wait tables at Merlotte’s where the owner Sam looked at me with something like pity in his eyes whenever I jumped a mile out of my skin at a glass breaking or a tray hitting the floor.
He knew I was fucked up. He had the courtesy not to ask about it. I did my job and he minded his business, which was none of mine.
I had just wanted to save one. Just one. I couldn’t even do that. A whole fucking village and I couldn’t even save a single one.
“Gotta be lookin’ forward,” Gyl had said. “Can’t leave your head in the past, Princess.” So I stuffed it down until I choked on it, I stuffed deep until I was out and there was only me to worry about. They kept going, but I fell behind and then I fell out. The only thing that could find me now were the dreams and the memories.
A storm is coming…
But it wasn’t all bad. As I looked for items on my grocery list I let myself peek into the place where I kept the one memory that I needed more than any other. I didn’t go there often, I was afraid I think. Afraid that it might get contaminated with all the poison that filled my mind and my soul.
It was the best memory I had of my time as a Marine. The last night I was in Phuket, the night after the weird fucking trip to the tattoo parlor I had been at some dive, swilling drinks and looking for one last fight before we left at 06:00 to return to the fight. I was considering how totally screwby it was that I wanted to go back, I wanted to fight and at the same time it was the last thing in the world I wanted to do. Maybe I knew that no matter where you go, there you are, and I could be just as fucked up there as I was here, but with a purpose. Maybe there was still one out there I could save.
He came up beside me and leaned against the bar. He was a god. Well over six feet tall, blond hair and when he turned to look at me with his eyes of sky the bombs in my head stopped going off. I didn’t want another drink, and I didn’t want to fight away the pain.
I remember that he looked at my tattoo and smiled. His smile made angels fall from the sky, and devils like me long to climb up there just to be near him. I think he said, “A lady should always be prepared,” which is what Dish had said, but I am not sure I didn’t just make that up. I think that is what he said, but it wouldn’t make sense for a perfect random stranger to tell me what The Man in Black had said.
But he must have said that because I know for sure what I said next was what Dish had said next, “Karma. Is somebody getting fucked now?”
“Always.” Then I was in his arms, and his lips were on mine. The rest is a collage, as if we had been in a room of total darkness with a light bulb on a swinging chain.
I saw him, face in ecstasy while he moved me on him.
I saw him looking at me in the exact way a woman wants to be looked at, as if she is the only woman in the world.
I saw him looking at where he was joined with me, and I wanted to keep that look on his beautiful face forever.
I saw him, his face a perfect capture of intense pleasure and I felt him come inside me as I had the best orgasm of my life.
I saw him above me, kissing my tattoo softly, and I was tingling. My tattoo was tingling.
“I finally found you, Sookie.” I know he said that, called me by a name that I had left stateside when I joined the Marines. I know he said it, as sure I as I know there was no way he could have.
I saw him, his blue eyes filled with promise and love. “I will find you again!” he swore and I believed him like a child believes in Santa and the Tooth Fairy. I believed him like I needed to believe I could still save one. Just one. Anyone.
I woke alone, back in my room and shipped out at 06:00. All the way back I thought I could still feel him, still hear him.
I will find you again.
It was a dream. It was a memory. It was a hope. A hope that held me together for the rest of my tour and that even now, nearly three years later held me as sure as his strong arms had that night.
I will find you again.
It was the only thing that made the bombs stop, but I couldn’t take it out and look at it often or long. To do so would risk it, make it sticky with all the other shit I needed so desperately to forget. He was my refuge, my savior.
I was driving home with the groceries Gran needed when I saw the dark clouds gathering over Bon Temps.
A storm is coming…
Fuckin’- A there as it was gonna be a gully washer! I sped up trying beat it to the old farmhouse where we lived. I pulled in, grabbed the groceries and ran for the door as the sky opened.
“Gran!” I called out as I put the stuff away. When I finished the rain was pounding so hard on the front of the house that I couldn’t see out the windows. I checked her room but she wasn’t there.
I ran through the whole house calling to her but she wasn’t home. I was about to get worried when I heard the thunder and a roaring sound that chilled me to the bone. Running the front door I threw it open and I saw the funnel coming right at me.
But those don’t happen in Louisiana, my brain argued. I closed the door calmly.
Those don’t happen in Louisiana.
The noise grew louder, and I stood with my back against the door, my rational mind arguing against the evidence that tornados do indeed happen in Louisiana.
The house started shake.
A storm is coming…
“It’s here,” I whispered before I covered my ears and screamed, “HOO-RAH! HOO-RAH! HOO-RAH!” and then I was out of the blue and into the black.
Everything was spinning.
“Warrior…you are called!”
“HOO-RAH!” I answered. My eyes were open and in the black I saw a large python.
“Warrior!” the python said.
“HOO-RAH!” I answered.
“I will find you again!”
“Eric? Where are you!” I ran into the spinning black and found only the python.
“WARRIOR! YOU ARE CALLED! THERE IS A STORM COMING!”
On I ran away from the python, toward the python, calling to my dream, my hope, my salvation.
“I will find you!”
“ERIC!” And then I fell, everything around me fell. The bombs were falling again.
“This time,” the python said, “Perhaps you will save one.”
“HOO-RAH!” followed me into the dark and just when I thought I would die in the black, I saw two small spots of sky blue open before me.
“Sookie? I found you!”