Excerpts from an unfinished novel #2

Back in November 2011 I started working on a novel tentatively titled Ghost Hand. The story is about Marine sniper who returns to Los Angeles to recover from severe injuries only to find that the war for him has just started, and there’s more to the world than he knew.

Part of his story is dealing with his PTSD. As he starts to work out his issues he discovers a whole class of people worse off than he is: The homeless.

After several starts at the novel I had to set it aside. I just was not happy with the story. I needed to sit on it more. But in the process I did write a whole of lot fun pieces in the voice of the protagonist. Several of them were designed to be chapter headers, to show up at the beginning of every third chapter or so. These ones are all about mental illness, and are presented from the point of view of someone who has gone through it, and made it out the other side.

I’m going to put them up once a week, for five weeks. This is number two of five.

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You can’t tell when you’re crazy

Here’s the thing about being crazy. The thing no one will tell you unless they’ve been there. When you are crazy you cannot tell. You cannot know it. Your brain can be so scrambled that the idea of emptying your weapon into a room full of strangers sounds perfectly reasonable. Yet from the inside your thinking feels perfectly normal, logical, even rational. Exactly as if there is nothing wrong.

How fucked up is that?

You see, from the inside, being insane feels exactly like being sane. And that’s the trouble. When you are crazy it feels just like being normal. The only difference is a sane person doesn’t believe the proper response to waiting too long in line for a bank teller is to rip the bank apart, or when they get startled by a car horn while crossing the street, they don’t pull the driver out of their car and bounce their head off the hood.

See, when you’re sane you get that. You understand that one doesn’t just go and hit every asshole in the world. You can look at some jerk, and say to yourself, “Oh, he’s just being an ass,” and then go about your day. I can’t. I don’t have that ability. I used to, but now its gone. Burned out of me like a lot of other things.

Worst still, when you are crazy you cannot hear to the good advice of others. Its like a part of your brain has been turned off. So when your best friend tries to tell you that you’re acting crazy, you won’t believe them. Why? Because on the inside it doesn’t feel crazy to you. It feels perfectly sane. So you start to think, “What’s wrong with him? Is he loosing it?” when in fact you are the one who is loosing it. Which makes for some pretty messed up relationships, let me tell you.

And remember, no one plans on being crazy. It’s not something you set out to do. You don’t wake up one day and say to yourself, “I think I’ll go nuts today.” No, it’s something you become.

Take me for instance. I was perfectly sane for years, killing people I didn’t know. Now I know what you’re thinking, “How can a man be sane when he goes around killing people?” But its true. You see, it was my job. I was a sniper, a Marine sniper. And a damn good one too. I killed a lot of people, yet I slept perfectly fine at night. That’s because they were my enemy, and I can tell you that each and every one of them would have happily killed me first, if he had half the chance. More than a few have tried, let me tell you, which is why I have so many scars. But none of them succeeded. So far. Not to sound harsh or anything, but that’s how war goes. You try to kill the guy before he kills you. At least that’s the idea. It doesn’t always work that way, but if you train hard, and travel with the baddest sons-of-bitches who ever walked the earth, you have a pretty good chance. That’s what I did.

But then one day something happened. I went crazy. Not just a little bit crazy either. Whole hog crazy. As my Sargent back in boot camp used to say, “You don’t do anything in half measures, do you Santiago?”

Anyway, now I’m trying to find my way back. Trying to be sane again. And its hard. Harder than you would think. Hell, even Marine Sniper school seems easy by comparison, and that was the hardest thing I ever accomplished.

Until now.

Anyway, this is my story.