I’ve had almost no flashbacks of my life as John for some time now, and most of the time I’m left thinking “What the hell happened?” while feeling as if I have more immediate things to angst over.
Last night, though, I had another dream to remind me that John’s ordeal is still just under the surface.
It started off as the sort of dream I have regularly in this life; a dream about driving (or riding) down long, narrow, two-lane highways with no particular destination in mind. But at some point, it turned into a trip to Ypres in the present day.
In fact, it was a dream of the trip I plan to take with my father next year. We were standing near one of the many large cemeteries and I noticed a massive mound of dirt, probably about 40 feet high by 50 feet wide by 200 feet across. The mound, it was understood, was a mass grave of some sort with tens of thousands of bodies in it. And then and there, the scale of the war really hit me in a way that facts and figures couldn’t.
As the dream progressed, walking through the reconstructed town of Ypres with its replica medieval buildings that I had last seen as ruins a hundred years before, I felt numb. I felt like I should have an emotional reaction, but I couldn’t. The denial was immense, and the rebuilt town made it feel as if the whole war had been just a bad dream even though I knew better, because I had just seen the mass graves outside the city.
I guess I’ll have to live with this just under the surface for the rest of my life. It’s the same impulse that dragged me across England not just looking for where I came from, but when I came from. It’s always with me, and it always has been; the difference is, now I know why and I can never go back.