This is the time the anxiety born from the PTSD of a severely abusive childhood reared its ugly head in my adult life.

I was sweating profusely, hammering out push-ups in a sheltered sandpit with 40 other Army, Navy, Marine and Coast Guard men and women trying to get their airborne “Jump Wings.” It was just past 0600 and the Georgia humidity was already taking its toll on me. I started to feel dizzy and dehydrated, but the agonizingly loud Marine corporal behind me kept saying the same thing over and over again: “Don’t slow down, keep going!”

I rolled my eyes and continued to perform push-ups slightly out of sync with the rest of the formation, trying to focus on the panting and groaning of those around me and praying that those sounds would overwhelm that fucking corporal.

I closed my eyes and imagined myself sitting on a beautiful green hill overlooking a clear blue lake somewhere in Ireland — the pain in my arms, hands, and chest snapped me back to reality. The constant barrage of saliva droplets from the Marine’s mouth (who was now so close to me that I could smell his chewing tobacco) ripped me from my blissful daydream.

“Come on motherfucker, you can do this,” he was smirking at me with that stupid ‘I-can-do-push-ups-all-day-long’ look.

The anger inside of me had reached its boiling point, but I held my tongue. I was a private after all, and I did not want to be kicked out of Airborne School for calling an instructor a fucking douchebag.

Well Curtis, you can always become James Bond — my mind started randomly generating thoughts and questions that I could not control. The thoughts became increasingly random as I struggled to concentrate on doing push-ups. You’re just a nigger and a piece of shit, and you will fail.

I tried desperately to block out the chaotic voice in my head, but it kept taunting me. The niggerization of the Jews, the voice in my head said with a thundering bout of laughter.

I stopped doing push-ups and collapsed, overwhelmed with pain, anxiety, and confusion.

“What the hell private, you can do this shit,” the Marine corporal had suddenly became Mr. Nice and Friendly.

That white motherfucker doesn’t care about your nigger ass, the voice in my head was like a record scratching the same fragment over and over again. My energy plummeted and my concentration went with it. The soldiers in the pit were doing push-ups in slow motion. The corporal’s mouth was moving, but I could not hear nor understand what he was saying. The sudden grip of fear and loneliness overcame me, as if I was being swallowed by a dark inescapable void. Tears and sweat started to pour down my face as reality began to slip away into obscurity. I stared hopelessly at the Marine corporal’s distorted face, desperately trying to reinsert myself into the world I knew was real.

The voice in my head became more and more illogical as I fought desperately to bring myself back from the edge.

And like that, it all came back. Like a gust of wind, my reality came rushing home.

I angrily stared at the Marine corporal, hoping that he would say something that would allow me to express my feelings; my body language and face dared him to say anything at all.

“You need to work on your push-up form,” he said with a smirk. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.

“Well you can kiss my ass”, I calmly said. It wasn’t my smartest moment.

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Joni Smith
Joni Smith
2 years ago

How did I miss this story? Curtis, brilliant description of the overwhelming feeling of PTS. I felt I was right there with you struggling to breath while the smell of chewing tobacco filled your nostrils. Knowing all you have been through, I continue to find you as source of inspiration. If Curtis can survive and thrive then no excuse for me or anyone else. I mean that in a positive way. I have to think the anger and hurt you must feel from the horrible childhood you endured must be a source of fuel to prove you are worthy and… Read more »

2 years ago


Wisdom, sadly, is often only imparted to us…after we have opened our mouths…

-Yankee Papa-

2 years ago

Curtis, that was painful to read. It breaks my heart when I hear people lash out at themselves (or an inner voice does), that denigrates, and demoralizes them.

George E. Hand IV
2 years ago

“The niggerization of the Jews”… what does that even mean? I don’t know what it means but it made me laugh like nuts. I’ll never tell you what you cannot do, Curtis… but I’ll tell you what you can do: you can write well.
geo sends

1 year ago

Curtis, I am catching up on reading. I mostly listen to audio because of vision problems. I will read next two parts this weekend. Love your writing.

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