by Angela Kempe
He stood in the motor pool hallway facing a large topographic map haphazardly tacked to the wall. He focused on the contour lines, then let his eyes pass between the greens and browns, blurring into a haze.
Why am I here?
Shear terror paralyzed him. He listened to the others walking along the hallway.
Where am I?
He was afraid to cast away his gaze. He might lose himself completely to his panic. He could feel his heart pounding inside his chest. He was lost in another man’s world.
Okay. Just breathe. You know that you are supposed to be here. What am I doing? Who am I?
He let his chest fill with cold air and then expelled it slowly through his mouth.
The map. The map had words on it.
He lifted his hand to the worn laminate surface of the map and pressed his fingertips against the black word WIESBADEN.
“Wiesbaden,” he said under his breath.
He searched the relief for other clues. The map was cracked and bent at the edges. But he couldn’t recognize the places. Then, he looked at the camouflaged green of his sleeve and something came to him.
I’m a soldier. I live in Germany.
His mind stretched for the memories.
His head hurt and he was nauseated by fear. Trying to calm himself, he inhaled again, slowly. Then slowly exhaled.
I’m a soldier. Oh yeah. I have a family.
The memories came flooding back to him. He looked around cautiously. Two soldiers were passing him and they were laughing, so he bent his head towards the ground, unsure if they had noticed him. Suddenly, the stress of his job came back. He remembered what his orders were, stood tall, and straightened up his uniform. After all, it was just another day at work when you’re a soldier with a TBI.
*Dedicated to my husband, who suffers daily from his TBI, but still has the courage to get up everyday and fight for our country.