For Sergeant Thomas Simmons, getting injured in Iraq was just the start of an adventure that would throw him down the rabbit hole into a world where nothing made sense anymore. Having to restart his life, this soldier has to take his battlefield courage and turn it to a different arena in order to face this newest set of challenges. He just wonders if he is strong enough to handle this newest change in his life.
Thomas dragged himself from bed and threw on his BDUs. He felt like utter ass right now and there really wasn’t anything he could do about it. Maybe some breakfast and coffee would help. He laced his boots and was ready to head out. Today, he had his first meeting with Outprocessing and they would get all the reams of paperwork together so he could sign out of the Army and become a civilian again. They would go over everything in his file and make sure they had everything in his packet so he would get credit for it: all his medals, promotions and the like. He hoped the whole thing wouldn't take too long but he really didn't care too much at this point. At this point Thomas just wanted out. There was no way he could ever do his job and he hated that. Leaving might just be the best thing for him. He was actually starting to like the idea of being able to sleep in all the time and being a lazy, slacker civilian. Maybe he could manage to be that without too much trouble. Maybe.
Since the majority of the 101st was deployed, there weren’t a lot of people there to get outprocessed which was certainly going to make this a lot faster. He limped into the office after one of the civilian clerks called his name. Once they got seated at the desk, they went through his packet of information, all his medals, his ratings, his medical status, his promotions, his entire military career. It took a while but they finally got everything compiled and ready to go. The final review of his DD214 would be this coming Friday. He would then be a civilian and would have to go and get his retiree ID card before he left base and get a new security sticker for his car in order to come and use the commissary and PX. Life would certainly be a lot different at that point. He was actually starting to look forward to it, which was a bit different.
Thomas limped to his car and headed off back to his barracks. His day was officially done at this point and there was nothing more that he had to do in order to outprocess. He could get out of his uniform and start working on other stuff, like getting furniture and moving some of his stuff into his new apartment. Friday would come soon enough and he really needed to be moved out by the time he actually Outprocessed, since that was when he had to turn in his barracks key. He drove over to the rental office for the apartment complex he had chosen and went in. Once he got his keys from the nice lady behind the desk, he could start moving in and setting up his new home until he graduated. There were going to be movers coming and delivering his bed in an hour or so and he planned to move in there tonight. He would finally be out on his own, with no one to tell him what to do or where to be and when for the first time in his life. It was actually pretty exhilarating. Maybe he could arrange for some of the people still at the unit to help him lug his stuff over from the barracks? That would be a good help since he couldn’t do it himself thanks to his leg and wrist. They would probably be willing to do it if he asked them nicely. He could always throw in pizza and beer as well. Whatever worked to motivate them.
He got the keys with no hassle and went to his new apartment. It was nice and spacious, had two bedrooms, a kitchen, living room and dining room. The bathroom was handicapped equipped and had a good-sized tub that he could get into and out of easily. He had checked on that before he had decided on this place as that really was an important need at this point and honestly, from now on. Thomas was actually really excited about having this apartment. It would be his and he would be alone. That was certainly a good thing, he thought, given everything that has been going on in his head. He wanted the time to himself, so he could get his head straight and figure out who or what he was. This apartment would certainly be a safer to do that compared to being at home with his parents underfoot or sharing with anyone else in a dorm setting. This really was the best he could hope for.
* * * * * *
Debra really liked his apartment and had come over to spend his first night there after everything had been moved in. They had broken in his new mattress several times, much to his delight, even though his leg ached afterwards to the point he took some meds. All the other furniture that was there was new as well, though not broken in yet. The quiet of the apartment was different then he had been used to and sometimes he felt alone, which he kind of liked. It was nice not having to shower with other guys or where others could see him. It felt just a bit gay to be doing that and always had and Thomas wasn't gay.
Was he a girl though? That question above all others plagued him and his sessions with the shrink didn't seem to be helping. Thomas understood that it had only been four sessions so far and that there was no way anything could have been determined in that time but the jealously and the thinking about women all the time only seemed to be getting worse. It was all he could do not to get really upset when he was almost anywhere off base and there were a lot more women about.
His latest assignment that the Doctor had given him really embarrassed him. He was watching a few female coming of age films and he was supposed to see if he felt like he had anything in common with the characters. Thomas had watched them alone because there was no way he would have been able to explain any of this to Debra. She would never have understood what he was going through and he didn’t want to complicate his life anymore than it already was. The assignment was odd enough but to realize that he did have several similar feelings going on was disturbing. Thomas also hadn't expected to actually enjoy any of the films, let alone a couple of them. He had been glad Debra hadn't come over for a surprise visit when he was watching them as he really had no idea how to explain any of this to her or himself for that matter. She would have made him miserable with all of her questions.
He really wasn't looking forward to his appointment tomorrow afternoon for a number of reasons. The biggest one was that some of the questions the Doc had asked Thomas really made him uncomfortable and unsure what to do. He wasn't used to all of this introspection and yet that was what he was being forced to do. Doing things was what he was good at, being active not just sitting around and thinking. Walking and physical therapy were his only form of exercise and he felt lazy, like a worthless slug and he hated it. Up until this point in his life he had never been so inactive. He wanted to run, climb, rappel from a helicopter, fire his weapon, road march, anything except limping and thinking, especially not the thinking. Well, maybe any other thinking than this. It was uncomfortable.
After a quick shower, Thomas got into his uniform and boots for what was probably going to be the last time. The money he had spent on getting the forest green BDU pressed was worth it and his boots shone from the attention he had shown them last night. Thomas liked looking good, he liked looking sharp and professional and it made him feel pretty awesome. He felt like a soldier and that made him feel better about everything. Thomas took pride in his appearance and he hoped it showed.
He looked at himself in the mirror and his pride faded slowly as he looked himself over. All of his professionalism, all of his drive to be a career soldier had all come to naught, destroyed in an instant by that damn Iraqi rocket propelled grenade round which exploded into the roof and ruining his life. He clenched the grip of his black government issue cane and frowned, almost glaring at himself. What the fuck was wrong with feeling good? Was there some reason that he didn't want to be happy, that he didn’t deserve to be happy? Was he ever going to stop feeling sorry for himself? Was he ever going to get over this crap?
"Suck it up soldier! Are you going to let this ruin your life?" Thomas growled out the order to his mirror twin.
The mirror didn't reply but Thomas pulled himself up and did what he could to stand fully at attention. He could sort of manage it if he took the weight off of his bad leg, letting it hover over the ground slightly while he leaned heavily on his cane. His leg and arm might be fucked up but Rhymer still looked like a soldier and he would act like one until the very end. He didn’t put up with all these years in the service to slink away from things as if he were some sort of broke dick.
He limped out of his ground floor apartment and over to his car. His radio blared during the short drive onto post and he smiled as the heavy metal music thrummed through his body. He loved listening to something hard when he drove his car. It made him feel more like a man and he liked that. He showed his ID to get through the security gates and headed for the Outprocessing center, as his appointment was soon. He hoped that this wouldn't take too long as he wanted to get back to the apartment and to get more things put away, as he still had stuff in boxes. Moving into his new life was all that was on the agenda now.
Once he found a parking space by the building, he hobbled slowly inside, clenching his teeth against the pain. It was one of the largest buildings on the base, a place where everyone came through when they arrived and they left. There was only a small line of other soldiers waiting to get through this so Thomas had a good feeling about things. This whole process should be quick, given the size of the line. He was going to find out how much money he was getting from his medical discharge and it was going to be deposited into his account shortly after he signed the last of the paperwork. Direct deposit was a good thing in his opinion as it saved him so much effort. The money would be nice but he would have preferred to be able to walk without a limp. There really was no amount of money that could really be a compensation for that.
His name was called by one of the clerks and he made his way over to the person who had helped him earlier in the week. Thomas hobbled over there, trying to walk as erect as he could with the assistance of the cane. His leg burned with the exertion but he could endure this. He sank into the chair by the man’s desk, glad that it had been a short walk. Once this was done the first order of business would be to get his leg elevated and maybe an ice pack to help numb the area. "Here you go Sergeant. Just look this over and it is correct and if it is all correct, if you could can sign here."
Thomas looked over the paperwork and noted that everything seemed to be correct on the form. All of his awards were listed on it, including his Bronze Star and all of his promotions. It looked like he was going to get full retirement pay along with his money for the medical discharge. His eyes goggled at the amount that was listed. He hadn't really expected something in the mid to low six digits when they said he was going to get severance pay.
He smiled, everything was right as far as he could tell. He took out his pen, something every soldier carried thanks to training, and signed his name one the few space indicated. The man smiled at Thomas. "That's all there is to this Sergeant. Take this paper over to Finance and you will get your money at the next pay period. Take care and good luck."
Thomas rose, shook the man's hand and took his file. With that signature he became a civilian and had formally left the service. He had his Honorable Discharge right there in the folder and with one more place to visit he would soon have more money than he really knew what to do with. He would have to figure out what to do with all the cash and something not stupid like blow it all in one shot. Maybe he could do something nice for himself, like maybe get another car? Maybe, but his car was still in good shape and he wasn't sure about the whole job thing. Maybe he should use the money to live on for a while instead of working. Then again Vocational Rehabilitation was supposedly going to take care of his school costs and pay him a stipend. He would need to make a plan and stick to it in order to really make he best use of this opportunity.
Finance took the sheet of paper and he signed a few more things to finish up there. He was now a civilian and able to do whatever the hell he wanted. First off he wanted some lunch. He limped to his car and headed over the block to where the Burger King was. He happily ate a greasy burger, just like many others on their lunch break and he sighed happily at the taste. He was going to drop by the unit one more time to say good-bye to everyone in the rear D. Then he needed to stop and get his retiree ID card before he left the base, otherwise he couldn’t get back on post without it. With that ID he would be able to shop at the commissary and PX, which was actually a really nice benefit. The prices there were better on most things since there was no tax on them and that meant he could save some of his money for other things.
The visit to the unit was actually really anti-climactic. All he did was to shake hands with a few people and then limped away. The ID card was also just as much of a nothing event. All of the importance he thought would be tied to these events and they were basically nothing, non-events. Maybe this whole leaving thing didn’t mean as much to him as he thought. He wasn’t sure but he was positive that the drive home from Fort Campbell was quiet and his mind raced over everything that had happened.
Thomas ached and felt drained even after such a short time there. In a few hours, he had his appointment with the Doc and maybe that would help him figure things out as he talked to him. He was tired of his thoughts always running in these strange directions all the time. Given all of this crap, right now he didn’t really to seem to have an interest in most anything. He fought back tears as his dream of being a soldier faded in his rearview mirror.
* * * * * *
"So you're a civilian now. How's that make you feel?" asked the doctor, leaning back in his desk chair, getting comfortable. His ever present note pad was at the ready.
"I'm not sure. I always wanted to be a soldier, ever since I was a kid and I wanted to have a career in the military. I had hopes of making my E5 without getting it tacked on to my injuries and trying to become a Special Forces soldier. I wanted to fight to help save the world. And then I got injured. I am a depressed over that and a bit angry at the way things fell out. I just wish I had been able to stay in, but my injuries are too much for me to be able to do anything resembling my old job." groused Thomas, looking down at the ground. If he could beat his leg into compliance he happily would, but he wasn’t going to do anything along those lines.
"So what you’re saying is that you thought of the job as a part of yourself?" asked the Doctor, as if he was already sure of the answer.
Thomas started a little at the observation. He had never thought of it that way before but it seemed too uncomfortable to not be true. He shifted in the leather chair nervously as that ran through his head. This was completely not a good thing in his opinion. "Uhm…yeah. That makes sense and it certainly sounds right. Since I saw the job was a part of me, not having it makes me feel as if something is missing, something important. I can see that."
"Has something always been missing or just since your accident?" The question seemed innocuous.
Thomas sat and thought over his life. Had something been missing this whole time? Had he missed out on something in his life? As he sat there he realized there was that feeling, but he wasn't sure why it was there. The whole thing was very frustrating. "Yeah. There has been. I'm not sure why but I have been having a feeling that something was missing. I think I joined the Army to find something that filled that spot. I guess it somewhat worked, but not really well. I guess that I am just so used to feeling out of sorts and missing a part of me that I never really noticed it. Now that am looking for it, I can see it. That’s really odd.”
“Any clue what could have been missing?" Thomas could tell that the question was leading him, or maybe just nudging him to keep him looking in the right direction. Delving into his mind was not something he wanted to do, but the Doc kept prodding him deeper. He didn't quite resent it but it was irritating. He figured that if he wanted to get to the bottom of this particular issue that he would need to spend more time thinking over this issue.
“I’m not sure. The only thing that has come up that might qualify for what has been missing is my jealousy over women. I mean, I have all of those feelings that don’t make any sense to me and I am starting to get some strange urges. And I’m not sure what to do about any of it. I mean, at times, thinking about this, I have wondered what panties would feel like, or a silky nightgown or something like that. I don’t really know what to do about that.”
"Well, instead of fighting it, why not get something like that?" offered the doctor writing something down on his notepad. He said it completely nonchalantly, as if it were a obvious non-issue.
"What?! You mean buy some panties and a nightgown? Get some girl’s clothes?" Thomas was incredulous. He couldn't do that, could he? The whole idea was uncomfortable and enticing at the same time and his stomach roiled in nervousness. "I mean, I'm a guy and guys don't wear panties and nightgowns and the like. I just want to get past this stupid jealousy thing and get on with my life."
"One of the things that might help us in determining if this is some sort of fixation or perhaps Gender Dysphoria would be your overall response to wearing some of the clothes. Why don't you go out and get some panties and a nightgown of your own. Wear them and note how they make you feel in your journal."
The request seemed logical and even made a sort of sense to Thomas. But he had to keep arguing, didn’t he, because he was a guy. He didn’t want the Doctor to think less of him.
"But I have no idea what my sizes are?" It was a feeble defense and Thomas knew it when he spoke. The idea of wearing panties and a nightgown was intriguing and terrifying at the same time and just thinking about it was making his heart race. What the hell was he going to do? He couldn’t just go buy them, right?
The doctor looked at him for a moment with an even more critical eye than normal. Thomas could almost hear the mental gears whirring in the man's head as he gazed over. "My rough guess would be size 6 for the panties if you want to tuck and maybe a size 7 if you don’t. Maybe a 12 or a 14 for the nightgown. Those are just my rough guesses."
Thomas felt his head spin a little with the information. Was he really going to do this? Was he really going to buy women’s underwear and wear it? "But doctor, how the hell am I supposed to do this? I mean I am a guy, why the hell would I be in the lingerie section of a store? Guys don't go there. So I'll be embarrassed and what will I do or say if anyone tries to help me? What will I do at the register?"
"Thomas, breathe. Relax. This isn’t as bad as you are making it out to be. Just act bored and if it is no big deal that you are there. The people at the register couldn't care less what you buy or for who. To them it is just another sale they have to ring up and so it’s not worth thinking about. As for people helping you, tell them you are trying to buy your girlfriend a nice present. I am sure it will be fine. The people at stores basically are all about the sale and could care less if it is for you or not. As for tucking, there are several resources online that can help you with that." The doc had leaned forward and rested a hand on Thomas's knee. It was somehow comforting instead of odd and it did help Thomas to relax a bit more. "So, what about your dreams? Are you still having nightmares about Iraq?"
Thomas felt a sense of relief about the topic change. He was starting to feel really weird about the turn of events and being able to shift to something else was a welcome distraction. It wasn’t any less awkward in a lot of ways, he just didn’t feel as embarrassed about it. He shivered as he thought about it. "Yeah. I keep dreaming about that little girl I killed and about all the bodies I saw when I was over there, both friend and foe. They keep looking at me, accusing me."
"What about the little girl bothers you the most?" asked the doctor as he wrote a few more things down on his pad.
Thomas looked at him incredulously. Was that really the question the Doc wanted to ask? "What the Fuck kind of question is that! I killed a little girl Doc. The burst hit her with all three bullets right in her chest. I killed her!"
The doctor made a motion to calm down with his hands. Thomas sat back, trying to do as asked, his chest heaving as he was taking deep breaths, panting some. "I know that Thomas, you have told me that already. What I want to know is what about killing her bothers you the most. Is it specifically guilt, anger, fear, what? What is it that you are feeling on this issue. If we can figure out what specifically is bothering you about the event we can figure out a way for you to get past this."
Thomas breathed deeply, trying to slow his racing heart by controlling his breathing. He really didn't like thinking about this topic either. However, the Doc seemed to be insisting on this so he just had to endure. "I think maybe a little bit of all of those. I feel guilty for shooting her, angry at her parents for letting her run outside during a firefight, afraid that I might have liked killing her, and horrified at what I have done. I think it was one of the reasons I did what I did to get injured. I wanted to die because of that. I… I don't like to think about this. I really don't…"
The doctor just sat there as Thomas's voice tapered off. He sat their patiently, letting Thomas dictate where things were going now. The quiet grew as Thomas sat there, hands clasped and looking at the ground, his thoughts whirling around the events in the desert, and the horror that filled him when he saw her body fall. His stomach clenched unhappily at the memory. The ticking of the second hand on the doctor's clock was loud in the silence. Thomas’s thoughts were a maelstrom.
"The thing is, part of why I feel so bad is that I wanted to die before that. I kept trying over and over and over again but it just didn’t happen. Time and again I threw myself into harms way, hoping that I would die, so I wouldn’t hurt. It only got worse after killing that little girl. You know, I was a hero only in as much as I lived through things. Heroes don't kill little girls. I should have died instead of her. It wasn't fair. It wasn't fair." Thomas sobbed quietly and felt tears begin to burn down his cheeks. His voice grew louder, as he wept, "Why did I have to live through all of that? I …I feel these urges and I know they are wrong. I feel this jealousy and I know it is because I want to look that way, be that way. I just wanted to die because I just couldn't take it any more. Why couldn't I just have died? Why? She had everything to live for and I killed her!"
The doctor handed him over a box of Kleenex. Thomas took the box and used a few of them to wipe his eyes and blow his nose. He didn't want to be crying but he couldn't seem to stop, his heart ached too much to do anything else. He just kept muttering, "It's just not fair."
"Thomas, I think that your Dysphoria has caused you to crave death to avoid doing something you have been taught is wrong. You have been conditioned to believe things are just so, when in actuality very little is just so, especially people. But is it really so wrong for you to be whole, to be complete? If this is something that is drawing you, then maybe you need to explore this, if for no other reason than to try and understand what is going on. So much of what you are going through seems bound up together, your jealousy and your PTSD. We can get this unraveled but it is going to take time and it is going to take you being gentle with yourself."
Thomas just nodded weakly. He really couldn't bring himself to look up in the doc's eyes as his cheeks burned, embarrassed about what he had just said and done. Admitting what he had been most afraid of, that he wanted to be a woman, had been difficult and it wasn’t right. Shame descended on him and it made him shift uncomfortably in the leather chair as he didn’t feel comfortable in his own skin. The Doc must think that he was some sort of joke, some sort of pansy, a sissy, something barely worth recognizing. He felt like a fool and a pervert and he couldn’t argue with it.
"Don't feel ashamed about this Thomas. You are dealing with some very complex issues, issues that most people never have to deal with their whole lives. These things aren't bad in and of themselves, just different. These issues just need to be worked with, to come to terms with, so you can accept things about yourself and let go of things that aren't part of who you are or not your responsibility." Thomas looked up towards the end of that. The doctor had the same look on his face that he had worn the whole time the session had run. There was no disgust, no disdain, no look of loathing, nothing but compassion and acceptance. Thomas eyes filled with tears again. If the Doc was right then maybe he could do this.
"Okay. I'll keep trying." His voice was a bit shaky and wavered some as he spoke. He felt like he almost always did after combat, drained, wrung out, desperately wanting to have a beer and to forget things. "I will try and cope with these various issues."
The doctor smiled comfortingly. "That's good Thomas. I also want you to write in your journal what you think about girls in general as well as the girl you are when you are in the nightgown, to see if anything in your thoughts change. That will be useful to look at."
Thomas nodded again. The doctor went on. "Let's call it a day. You dealt with some rough stuff and could use a break. Go and do something nice for yourself. Doctor’s orders."
Thomas got up and shook the doctor's hand. He headed out and heard the doctor call out. "Take care and I'll see you next week. Call if you need me."
If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudo!
Click the Good Story! button above to leave the author a kudo:
And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks.