This little vignette is meant to tell the fictional story of a veteran suffering from PTSD who is lucky enough to find help and in the process love and understanding. My hope is, that those suffering from this condition, whether from a war or some other disaster, will realize that there is help out there for them, all they have to do is ask or look for it.
Cindy Williamson had just celebrated her twenty-fifth birthday when she mustered out of the Navy, well... celebrated was really too strong of a word, she and two other nurses and a doctor had gone over to the Marine Officers Club at Camp Pendleton and had a couple of drinks, at least they had, Cindy had way more than two and the next morning her headache proved it. Cindy had joined the Navy Nurse Corps two years previously thinking that she would learn some practical applications of her nursing profession before she joined the civilian workforce and boy had she received some learning lessons. Serving fourteen months in a field hospital in Iraq had shown Cindy more blood, broken bodies and cruelty to humanity than she had ever realized was possible.
It was a bright and sunny Southern California Monday when Cindy drove off of the Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton for the last time and headed her car South on Interstate 5 towards San Diego. When she hit the Del Mar area she took the exit for the Del Mar Race Track down to Highway 1 South and then meandered lazily down the old highway until she finally arrived at Pacific Beach, a somewhat bohemian beach area of San Diego. Cindy pulled into a 7-11, got a cup of coffee and a copy of the San Diego Union newspaper and sat in her car looking through the want ads for a place to rent. She had plenty of money, besides her mustering out pay of over $8000 she had saved almost everything while she was in Iraq and had amassed over $70,000 in her bank account.
She was on the second column of 'Apartments for Rent' when she spotted an ad for a two bedroom, one bath, two story apartment for rent. It advertised that it had a view of the ocean and was easily accessible to the downtown Pacific Beach/Ocean Beach areas. Cindy pulled out her cell phone and dialed the number in the paper and made an appointment to look at the place after lunch. She knew that she had turned into a bit of a pessimist and so she really wasn't expecting much but was she was wrong.
After walking in the front door Cindy knew that this was the place for her. The living room was large, at least 15x25 and it had a small separate dinning room and a cozy kitchen. Upstairs there were two bedrooms and the single bath separating the two. The master bedroom was the same size as the living room and had a small balcony and the second bedroom, a much smaller 10x9 would be perfect for her office/sewing room, and the price - $975 a month plus utilities was a steal. And it did have a view of the Pacific Ocean for it sat a mere 15 feet off the boardwalk. You could open the living room curtains and look out across the boardwalk to the beach and from the upstairs bedroom Cindy could lie outside and tan and listen to the ocean as the waves rolled in and out. The only drawback that she could see was the amount of foot traffic on the boardwalk, but that was not enough of a detraction that she didn't sign a one-year lease on the spot.
Cindy moved in that afternoon and for the next two weeks she decorated the apartment. She seldom ventured outside during the day preferring to tan on her private balcony then go out for food in the evenings. She hadn't bothered to look for a job knowing that with the nationwide shortage of nurses she wouldn't have any problem finding one when she was ready.
Most nights were the same; Cindy would dress in her normal formal attire - a pair of jeans and a t-shirt or sweat shirt depending on the temperature, leave the apartment and go to dinner in one of the many dives along the beach. Most of the people who lived in Pacific Beach and the adjacent town of Ocean Beach were young, bohemian, anti-war and drunk on drugs or booze, or both, and that suited Cindy just fine. She would eat, seldom spending more than ten bucks for her meal, return home and drink glass after glass of boxed red wine, the cheap stuff they sell in most grocery stores everywhere. She would drink until she was drunk and the inner pain stopped, at least until the next morning. Cindy had PTSD and she knew it but wasn't about to go to some crappy VA hospital for a monthly refills of pills.
Three months had passed since Cindy had left the Navy and her routine seldom varied. Wake up each morning and take some aspirins, fuss around the house, tan and watch TV, then go out for dinner and get drunk. But tonight was going to be different; she was determined to do something different. It was just after 8 p.m. when Cindy took off her jeans and t-shirt and stepped into the shower. She washed her hair for a good ten minutes; soaped down and cleaned her sun screened painted body then rinsed off and stepped out of the shower to dry off. She walked naked into the bedroom and opened her closet door and looked for something different to wear. She picked a nice off-white peasant blouse and a pair of khaki shorts and set them on the bed. She rummaged through her dresser drawers until she found a pair of white French cut panties and a matching bra and she tossed them onto the bed too. Cindy turned and looked at herself in the full-length mirror.
She was the quintessential California beach girl, 5' 7", a 122 pounds, 34C breasts and long blonde hair. She had no sag to her breasts and her butt stood out proud and hard. She didn't have tan lines either, preferring to tan nude on her private balcony. Cindy turned first this way then that way as she evaluated herself. My God I look good and yet I haven't been with a man since... she thought back to her last sexual encounter, the one with the doctor in Iraq. How long ago had that been? Four months? No, Oh Christ it was four months before she left the service and that made it almost eight months ago!
Cindy blew dry her hair and put it into a ponytail. She put on her bra and panties then the shorts and blouse. She locked her apartment and went down to the carport and drove out of Pacific Beach down to the Gas Lamp Quarter in downtown San Diego. She found a parking place next to the new Padres ballpark and walked down the street looking for a place that would grab her attention. Then she saw it, it was called the 'Gas Lamp Strip Joint, ' a raw red meat, cook it yourself, steak house. The play on names was enough for Cindy and she walked inside. The main dining room was packed with both locals and tourists and after a couple of minutes of standing in the doorway a waitress approached Cindy.
"Can I help you?"
"I'm looking for a table."
The waitress looked over the booking list. "Looks like it might be a while, most of these folks just arrived."
Cindy looked around and saw a long old Western style oak bar off to the left side of the room that seemed to have seating available. "Can I eat at the bar?"
"Sure, no problem. Just go grab yourself a spot and the bartender will get you a menu."
Cindy saw an open stool at one corner of the bar and boosted herself up and onto the seat and waited on the bartender who was in a deep conversation with another patron at the far end of the bar. When he finally noticed her he sauntered down the bar to her spot.
"Hi, can I get you something to drink and a menu?"
"Sure, a glass of Fat Tire will do nicely."
"Coming right up." He set the glass of beer in front of Cindy and handed her a menu.
"How does this work, with the steaks I mean?"
"You order what ever steak you want and I'll go and get it for you. Comes with a tossed salad and garlic bread. You take your steak over there," he pointed to a huge grill in the center of the room, "and cook it until it's done to your specifications. That's it."
"Hummm, well that takes all the 'you didn't cook it right' complaints off the board."
"Sure does. Look, my name is John, John Connelly."
"Pleased to meet you Cindy, obviously it's your first time in here, are you in town on business?"
"Nope, I live over in PB, you know Pacific Beach."
"Oh. Well it's a nice place if you're a bleeding heart liberal."
"What the hell does that mean?"
"I'm sorry Cindy I didn't mean anything by that, I apologize."
She selected a sirloin strip steak and John brought it to her and she wandered off to cook her dinner. When it was done, to what she thought was a medium rare, she took it off the grill and went back to the bar and started in on her dinner.
"One more?" John pointed to her empty beer glass.
"Sure, why not."
Cindy finished her beer and steak, paid the tab and excused herself. She left a nice but not abnormally high tip for John and walked out into the San Diego night.
.... There is more of this story ...