Writing prompt

What its like to be a military mental health technician:

I try to make each person I meet with feel comfortable. Slouching low in my chair with a casual tone, like two friends conversing, I put them at ease. I even put the pen down when emotion rises and let empathy flood into my eyes. Questions drum off my tongue with quick succession, “ How old were you when your mother left?”, “Have you ever been abused?”, “ Are you having any thoughts of suicide?”. The words flow, floating their way into the atmosphere to meet a patient‘s thinking pause. And no matter the content, no matter my heart wrenched surprise, no answer ever gets an eyebrow raise.

I walk the chow hall with a bucket full of others’ secrets. As I wait in line I watch Smith seated amongst chattering friends, absentmindedly stirring the mash potatoes on his plate. He relapsed last week, and I wonder if his lunching buddies have noticed his recent introversion. When it’s my turn in line, Davies, who’s going through a grueling divorce, serves me my order of pork chops dispassionately and forgets to offer an “Have a nice day” as I take the plate. Seems things have taken a turn for the worse, he’s been shuffling around like this: blood shot eyes, sagging expression, and wrinkled uniform for the last week. At least Callaway is doing well today. I spot her near by lightheartedly joking with her boyfriend. I had a feeling Lieutenant’s counseling style would work well with her, I‘m glad I put them together. The cashier rings up my meal and Callaway catches my prolonged glance and quickly averts her eyes.

I push through the 11 am lunch crowd, a field of camouflage, loud voices, and brief “hello/goodbyes“. I pass familiar face after familiar face which brightens in recognition. Yet, shortly brightness collapses to quiet shame, exposed, as their recognition leads to a memory connection. Their story falls off the book shelf of my mind, revealing sour tidbits. Raped when he was 10, diagnosed with bipolar disorder, on 24 hour watch. I can barely see their eyes looking at mine, just labels in Times New Roman font under SOAP note: Diagnoses: Axis I. II. III. I quickly look away, out of respect. Our exchanges are a silent unwanted acknowledgment, that holds too many seconds, and I breathe better as I exit. Yet as the distance between us grows, foot propelling foot, I am left rereading the opened story in my mind. I just don’t forget.

Waiting To Kill

There is a chipmunk that lives in the same trees I am camped under. And for some odd reason this little forest fellow loves to chirp and bark and squawk all day and night every hour or so. He does this so often, and frankly wakes me up so many times during the night that I have revoked my “no-kill” policy on wild life to seek out the destruction of this little wilderness prick. This article is dedicated to expressing (and maybe dissolving) my animosity with that chipmunk:

Bad Chipmunk

I tried to hurt you today, I admit it.
I threw those rocks hard and missed you 100 times before giving up,
Wish you would die so I could sleep peacefully at night.
What part of evolution gave you that piercing bark,
And why do you feel the need to torture the air with it this wasteful shrill?

In the world of tree-rodents are you a minstrel of peace?
Or have the other chipmunks left the trees in spite of your constant pinging in their ears?
Just as you do to my ears, and to my nerves.
And now my nerves petition to my brain – to kill you now.

Bark all day if you will, bark ALL DAY.
But STOP when the sun goes down.
Stop making noises at 3am, 4am, 5am, 6am…
12pm, 3pm… WHAT’S THE POINT!

Are you mad that my tent has been under these trees all Summer long?
Sorry, I’m not going to move it.
You have one thousand trees to go to, I have only one campsite I’m allowed to stay in.
That’s just the way it is.

Go away stupid chipmunk.
Squirrels are much better than you.
I don’t care how cute that stripe is down your back.
I’ll take a mono-colored gray squirrel ANY DAY over hearing you make your dastardly shrieks.

So go away, or face death.