Setting the Prisoner Free part 2

essay, non-fiction Add comments

Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future~Paul Boese

The following Monday I sat in the Registrar’s office on campus and arranged for full time summer school.  I’d already put in my notice at the restaurant to drop back to a twelve hour week.  After I’d finished the registration procedures for the classes beginning that day, I walked over to the student center, grabbed a cup of coffee, lit a cigarette and sat at a table by myself.  I opened the textbook for the speech class I’d later attend, and another non-traditional aged student sat down at the other end of the table.  I could sense that he kept looking at me, and given my recent experience, I felt an extreme heightened awareness of everything around me.  This guy made me feel uncomfortable.  Just as I was about to pack up and leave, he spoke.

“Nannette?” he said.

So much for my heightened awareness—it was Marty, a guy I knew from a philosophy class I’d taken.  “Hey Marty.”

He moved down to my end of the table.  We small-chatted for a moment or two and then suddenly I felt like I was suffocating.  I grabbed my throat.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

After shaking my head, Marty helped me outside where I dropped my backpack and sat on the ground.  “A guy shot himself Saturday night at the restaurant.”  I gasped for more air.

“I read about it in the paper.”  He shook his head in a pitiful way I’ll never forget.  “I’m a card carrying nut from all the shit I saw in Vietnam.  Breathe.”

dimly lit roomMarty and I talked for over an hour when he recommended a post-traumatic stress counselor he knew.  A week later, at twilight, I sat in the veteran’s administration office—a hundred year old house turned into offices that smelled stale and looked more depressed than I felt.  It was dark, but not dark enough to hide the maps of Vietnam on the walls, or the pictures of local men who never made it back.

Apparently, the work day had ended for most workers in this office as the unnatural quiet screamed its presence.  While I waited to talk to Doug Mark the therapist, I flipped through an entire magazine—it could have been upside down for all the attention I paid it.  I returned the magazine to the stack on the table next to me and decided to leave.  As my hand turned the doorknob, I heard a gravely sounding, distant voice, “Nannette?”


“What can I do for you?”

What kind of therapist talks to you when they can’t see you?  I leaned around a corner as I answered, “I’m not sure.”  Papers rustled and a chair scooted across a hardwood floor.  I still couldn’t see anyone.

“Marty tells me you saw an ugly the other night.  That right?”

I poked my head into another room, and through that room toward the back in a smaller room, I saw the voice.  “I guess you can call it that.”

“Come on back,” he said.  “What can I do for you?”

I walked toward the unseen person.  “Make me forget I ever saw that guy shoot himself.”

A rounded body stood from the desk.  His face was hidden with a graying beard and thick mustache.  He still didn’t look up at me as he placed a file in a drawer.  “Go ahead and use the front door.”

“I’m sorry?” I stood two feet from him.

“Can’t make you forget and if you think I can, might as well leave now.”

I turned to leave.

“Easier than staying.”

I was not happy.  “All I can think about every day all day is what I saw.  I’m so scared that somebody is going to shoot me, that every stop light I came to on the way here, I made sure to keep my head moving so that I wouldn’t be an easy target.  I can’t go into the grocery store or a bar or restaurant because somebody is going to have a gun.  And so many people come into my restaurant and want a ‘guided tour’ of where it happened.  If I’m going to have to think about this everyday of my life, I’m going to lose it.”

“Stay and I might help you to live with it, let it go.”

“Might?  Let it go?”  I raised my voice.  “What’s with let it go?  I have no idea what that means.  Isn’t that the same thing as forgetting about it—which is what I want to do?  You know,” I raised my hand, made a small circle with my thumb and forefinger.  “I had this one small innocent spot left and this jerk took it from me.  I did not need to witness this.  He could have done it in his bathroom or car or drive into the mountains.  He stole part of me.”

Doug motioned to the overstuffed, worn chair.  “Sit.”

I sat, crossed my legs and folded my arms.

“Hear me out for a couple of seconds?”

I nodded.

“Good.  Figure out if this might help.  Go home. Write this guy who offed himself a letter.  Say what ever you want.  Tell him you’re pissed off.  Tell him you’re scared.  Tell him whatever comes to you.  Don’t worry about the order of things.  Just let him know how you feel.  See if you can talk to him about forgiving him.  After you’ve written a good long letter call me back.”

With all the books I’d read, lectures I’d attended, coaching I offered to others, I knew I had the tools to move forward, but couldn’t wrap my hands or my head around any of them.

Eventually, I did write.  I wrote letter after letter after letter for almost a year.  I wanted answers to why I couldn’tpen & paper let it go, why, why, why, would anybody take their own life, why was I there?

For the time being the gift, as I saw it, was getting out of the restaurant business and going to school.  But forgive Warren?  No.

conclusion tomorrow

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2 Responses to “Setting the Prisoner Free part 2”

  1. Mary E. Kennedy Says:

    I love reading your story, I don’t want a conclusion tomorrow, and yet I know there will be one. Please keep writing more stories, I look forward to them. This still must be a healing process, to finally be able to tell your story.

  2. nannette rogers kennedy Says:

    Seriously, Mary, you are one of my inspirations because I know how much you enjoy it. And hopefully, by telling this story and others, I can help others when they feel there is no hope ~ and it is cathartic for me too. And no worries, I think I’m on a little bit of a roll ~ a kaiser roll ~ lol

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