"Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character"(作者Jonathan Shay) 中一位越南老兵的自述（pp. 9-14）：
I haven't really slept for twenty years. I lie down, but I don't sleep. I'm always watching the door, the window, then back to the door. I get up at least five times to walk my perimeter, sometimes its' ten or fifteen times. There's always something within reach, maybe a baseball bat or a knife, at every door. I used to sleep with a gun under my pillow, another under my mattress, and another in the drawer next to the bed. You made me get rid of them when I came into the program here. They're over at my mother's , so I know I can get them any time, but I don't. Sometimes I think about them—I want to have a gun in my hands so bad at night it makes my arms ache.
So it's like that until the sun begins to come up, then I can sleep for an hour or two.
It wasn't any different when I was working for _____ before I lost it and they put me in the psych hospital. I remember the company doctor putting Valiums in my mouth, and they strapped me to a stretcher. I was screaming, and I thought the Gooks had overrun us and were pouring through the place. Everyone I looked at looked like a Gook.
I worked a lot of overtime and also went to school and had a second job. I didn't sleep any more then than now. Maybe two hours a night. But I sure made a lot of money. Workaholic. That's me—no, that was me. I was real lucky they kept me so long. They understood that sometimes I just had to leave work. And they never laughed at me when I hit the floor if there was a loud bang or something. I know guys here [in the treatment program] who work other places who had firecrackers lit off just to see them dive over a conveyor belt or something like that. Or their supervisors pushing them, pushing them till they lost it, so they could get rid of them. That never happened to me. Once a lamp in the ceiling exploded with a loud bang, and I dove into a tank of lubricant for the cutting machines. Oof! It was awful. But nobody laughed at me. They were real good to me, and they respected what I could do. They made me the head of the Emergency Response Team, like for explosions and injuries.
Once a guy was burned real bad when some hydraulic fluid caught fire. I was the only one who didn't freeze. I got in there with the fire blanket—see, I still got the scars here on my leg where I got hit too with the burning hydraulics. I got through Vietnam without a scratch and get a Purple Heart for the ____ Company [Laughs, then silence.] The smell of burning flesh messed me up real bad afterward, though. I didn’t notice it at the time the guy caught fire, but for the next few weeks I kept having flashbacks of the time the fast mover [jet] laid a canister of napalm on my company. I couldn't get the smell out of my nose, out of my mouth.
I don't deserve my wife. What kind of life is it for her married to me? She says, "Let's take the kids out for dinner." And I say, "Sure, let's go." So we get to the restaurant and we walk in the door and I say, "Whoa!" when I look around and see all those people. So the hostess shows us to a table right in the middle, and I say, "How about there in the corner?" and she says, "There's people there," and I say, "We'll wait." Meantime my wife is looking at me and there's sweat running down my face. I can't sit with my back uncovered. If I know you're back there covering me, it's okay, but a bunch of strangers, and some of them Gooks—no way. I sit in the corner where I can see everyone who comes in and everyone who leaves. So after we wait thirty minutes for the table in the corner we start walking through the restaurant to it and my heart's pounding, pounding and the sweat's rolling off me and I say, "I gotta go." So they sit down and eat and I stand up in the parking garage, the second floor overlooking the entrance to the restaurant where I have a real good line on everything going on.
Or another thing, y'know my wife's real social, and of course I'm not. She understands now because of the couple therapy ________ did with her and me together. So we don't fight anymore about a lot of those things, and she even helps me know with the embarrassment. Like at my in-laws' she'll even make up something she forgot in the car when she sees that there's getting [to be] too many people in the room, so I can get out of there. But one thing she still don't understand is the mail. She gets so mad at me because I'll drive into town to buy cigarettes but I don’t pick the mail up—it's right next to the 7-Eleven. What she doesn't understand is that every time I think it's _________'s kid sister writing me to find out how he died. She wrote to him every day—and I mean every day. Sometimes we wouldn't get our mail for six weeks, and when we'd get it there'd be more letters for him than for the rest of the platoon put together. It's better she don't know. If it was my big brother I wouldn't want to know the truth about the way he died.
Of course, in another way I'm real good to her [laughs], compared to what I was like to other women before. [Pauses.] Whew! I was one mean guy. She didn’t want to know me. You didn't want to know me. You don't want to know the number of people I messed up [pauses], or how I messed them up.
I don't have very long to live. No, Doc, no, no, I'm not suicidal, it's just that sometimes I don't care. I don't care if I live or die. I've been waiting to die ever since I got back from Vietnam. When I get that way, my wife, my kids—and I really love them—it's "Get away from me!" Once when my daughter was younger and I was that way, she came up behind me and before I knew it I had her by the throat up against the wall. I can still see her eyes. I put her down and just walked out of the house without saying anything to anybody and didn't come back for a week. I felt lower than I ever had. I hate it that my kids behave so careful around me. I made them that way, and I hate it. Every time I see them being so careful I think of that look in her eyes and I get this feeling here [puts his lam on his belly] like a big stone sitting there.
I don't think I have long to live because I have these dreams of guys in my unit standing at the end of the sofa and blood coming down off them and up the sofa. I wake up screaming and the sofa soaked with seat. I t seems like if the blood reaches me I'm going to die when it does. Other nights I dream of the guys calling me from the graveyard. They're calling to me, "Come on, come on. Time to rest. You paid your dues. Time to rest."
I never tried to kill myself, but a lot of the time I just don't care. For years I used to go down to the Combat Zone [the Boston red light district] after midnight and just walk the alleys. If I saw someone down an alley in the dark, I wouldn’t go the other way, I’d go down there thinking, "Maybe I'll get lucky." I'm amazed I wasn't killed. I guess I wanted to be killed. Once I came on a guy hurting a girl. She was screaming and screaming, and it was easy to tell he was hurting her bad. I yelled at him, and he turned around and started reaching behind his back. He was carrying. I ran on him so fast and had his elbow before he could pull out the piece [gun], and I pounded him good. That felt so-o go-o-ood. I don't know what happened to the woman. I guess she ran away while I was doing him. After that I started bringing a meat fork to the Combat Zone. You know like from a carving set with two—what do they call them—tines. I sharpened them real good. I didn't want to kill anybody, and I figured you could only stick that into somebody just so far before it stopped. When I went to the Combat Zone I never went with a gun. And there was a time I was really crazy and driving around town with a shotgun on the seat next to me.
I haven't spent a complete night in bed with my wife for at least ten years. I always end up on the sofa. It's safer for her, and I don't have to worry about waking her when I get up to walk the perimeter. When I was working sixteen hours a day I'd come home; she'd already be in bed. I'd do a couple hours of things around the house and meanwhile put away a case of beer and a fifth so I'd be able to sleep. Then I'd get in bed with her for two, three hours until it was time for work again. But after I couldn’t work anymore, and really bad after I stopped drinking, I'd do this crazy stuff at night. I once threw her out of bed so hard it broke her shoulder. I thought there was an NVA potato-masher [a grenade] come in on us. Another time I thought she was a Gook, and I had my hands around her throat before I woke up. So since I stopped drinking I never let myself fall asleep in bed with her. I lie there quiet until she's asleep and then get up, check the perimeter, and lie down on the sofa where I can see the door.
It's not much of a life for her, I guess. She deserves better.
She says I always mess up a good thing—like I don't deserve it. At Christmas I try to make it perfect for the kids with a big, fresh tree trimmed just right and lots of presents, but it's like I'm watching them through a dirty window. I'm not really there and they're not really there, I don't know which is which. Maybe none of us is real. It's like I'm wrapped up in some kind of transparent cocoon and everything gets to me kind of muffled. I don't know how to explain it.
My son asks me if I'll come to his Little League game and I can't ever promise. He wants me to promise, but I can't. It's not that I don't want to go. I was in Little League myself, and I go sometime just at the last minute and watch from the tree line in the outfield. He has a great arm, and once hit a home run into the trees where I was standing. I had to pull back real quick. You can't have somebody knowing where you'll be.
I'm so envious of all the normal people who can just go to the mall and hold hands with their wife and walk around. You see, I could never do that, because I'd be looking everywhere. I even envy you. I see you walking up the street to the clinic and you're not checking the rooftops for snipers or looking between cars as you pass to make sure there's nobody going to jump you, and I'll be you have no idea who's on the street with you. I can tell you every 0person two blocks ahead of me and two blocks behind me every second. I see you coming down the street, but you don't see me, because you’re in your own world not looking for ambush. How come you' re like that? I envy you.
You know, when I go into the men's room here at the clinic I have to pop open the door of each stall with my fist to make sure there's nobody waiting here for me. Sometimes there's guys in there and they look at me funny, but I got to do it or I'm too nervous to pee. Once I was in there and I was washing my hands and you walked in and just said, "Hi," and walked over to the urinal without checking the stalls. How can you do that?
You know, people ask me if I work out. I look very healthy, athletic and stuff. I don't work out. I don't do anything. Maybe it's muscle tension that keeps me this way. But you know, I'm not really healthy. I went to the ________ Fair a bunch of years ago and they had a Take Your Blood Pressure for Free table, and they made me lie down and wanted to call an ambulance it was so high. They were afraid I was going to die on them right there. They worked me up at the hospital for a feo-something, a tumor that makes your blood pressure go through the roof, but they never found anything. Then when I told them that I had stomach pains a lot and vomit every morning, they told me I had ulcers and worked me up for something else, I can't remember the name, but again they thought it was another kind of tumor that makes your stomach pump out acid all the time by the bucketful. They didn't find anything, but they gave me those pills to stop the acid, and now I don't vomit every day, only around my anniversaries. My skin is still all black in my groin from the jungle rot and Agent Orange, but my hands are better—see? It's only cracked a little here between the fingers and only kicks up during the summer. For years it was all around my waist cracked and oozing blood. My undershirt'd get caked to my skin and I'd have to change it three times a day or the smell would get to you. I was sprayed with Agent Orange during my second tour when we were working the Cambodian border. I thought they were spraying for mosquitoes, but it was Agent Orange, I found out afterward. This big plane came over putting out this big cloud behind it, and it came down on us like a mist, and I thought, "Aint" this amazing, they're spraying the mosquitoes all the way out here." But maybe it's all nerves, and not Agent Orange. That's what Dr. __________ told me. I don't know what to believe.
I know it all kicks up around the time of year we went into _______. I can't tell you what we were doing there, it's still secret and I've never been too comfortable with these dropped ceilings here in the clinic. It's just too easy to hide a microphone here. Maybe someday I'll be able to talk about it, but for now you never know who might be listening, and I'm not allowed to say anything about it. I shouldn't even have said we were in _____. I guess they need to keep tabs, because you know we still have our people over there who'd be dead in a minute if the wrong thing was said. There've been times I took every stick of furniture out of my house, took all the plates off the plugs in the walls and replaced every light fixture, and I had a guy sweep my house for bugs—close me $600, but I still had the feeling I was being watched. I don't know if it was the NVA [North Vietnamese Army] or a CIT [U.S. Marine counterintelligence], or maybe both. You know the NVA has people over here disguised as refugees. Maybe that sounds paranoid, but I can't help thinking it. Here I did three combat tours serving my country and I feel like a fugitive.
It still makes me mad the way nobody understands what we did over there. When I first came back it was like I was living under a toilet and every five minutes somebody had diarrhea on me. There's nothing I can do. I feel like a complete freak, maybe like the Elephant Man—that's me. Nobody can understand, 'cept maybe another 'Nam vet. If only I could cry like I cried the day ___ had his face shot off. I haven't cried since then. Never.
Well, I guess it's something that I can even talk to you like this, and you not even a 'Nam vet and all. Remember how long it took me to say I anything? I just had to watch until I could trust _____ and ______ and you. It was almost three years till I started to open up.
The people who read this book ain't going to believe any of this. And you better look out. Nobody's going to believe you when you tell them, and you'll end up an outcast like us.