The Posture of Innocence, day 32.5

in #writing3 months ago (edited)

Meet Captain Josiah Thompson, Captain Lee's therapist -- and watch how he works to help his most challenging patient achieve the first part of a breakthrough!

To get totally caught up on The Posture of Innocence, here are the prologue, day 1, day 2, day 3, day 3.5, day 4, day 4.5, day 5, day 5.5, day 6, day 7, day 7.5, day 8, day 9, day 9.5, day 10, day 10.5, day 11, day 11.5, day 12, day 12.5, day 13, day 13.5, day 14, day 15, day 16, day 16.5, day 17, day 18, day 19, day 19.5, day 20, day 20.5, day 21, day 22, day 22.5, day 23, day 23.5, day 24, day 24.5, day 25, day 25.5, day 26, day 26.5, day 27, day 27.5, day 28, day 28.5, day 29, day 29.5, day 30, day 30.5, day 31, and day 31.5, and day 32!

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Somebody had wanted Captain Thompson dead, or at least, out of his field. He was too good at what he did, too sound in his research and brilliant in his conclusions about what PTSD was, what it did to veterans, what the United States owed veterans because of the trauma its 15 years of nearly constant conflict had done to them, and also what the government might owe to other communities in the country who also had members showing signs of PTSD because of situations government policy had created. So, just after Charlottesville, Captain Thompson had been transferred to a facility in Roanoke, and given a nice docket of White veterans who it was assumed would wreak their hate on him. He had nearly despaired when the nephew of Robert E. Lee himself, that idol that white supremacists had killed to protect, had been added to him.

However, Henry Fitzhugh Lee had been a stunning and pleasant surprise. The way had been prepared while Captain Thompson was still a child, because of Colonel Lee's closeness to the Mortons and the hatred he had developed for those who hated the family of his wife just because they were Black, and free. Colonel Lee had actually been praying for a therapist something like one of his brothers-in-law, and not someone in idolatry to his great-great-great-uncle and what that uncle had chose to become infamouss in representing.

Therapist and patient wrestled intellectually, but there was warm respect and trust between them, and Colonel Lee took good heed to whatever Captain Thompson shared with him.

“I've been thinking about this for nine months, Colonel. The thing about the police work: it's terrible for you but it's also just right, because it mirrors the fight you've been fighting, over and over again, since Five Bright Nine. I think subconsciously you knew that before you signed up.”

“Possibly,” Colonel Lee said. “One does tend to be attracted to the environment one has grown comfortable in.”

“Right. You are an excellent, excellent data manager, so, consciously, cold cases were a good fit in police work. You are also are a ferocious warrior against corruption, come home to Lofton County and its neighbor, Roanoke County. We've got plenty for you. You could fight on for the rest of your life.”

Colonel Lee winced, but smiled.

“It does sort of appeal to me, now that you mention it.”

“Like I said, Colonel Lee, you are self-aware. I'm sure you don't just do 22 hours of work because it is your duty to do it.”

“Correction,” Colonel Lee said. “It is because I can do it, and because I can, I must, in the situation we are in. To withhold my greatest effort at such a critical moment for the right and good would be a betrayal of everything I believe in.”

“How Lee of you,” Captain Thompson said.

“Since the days of Richard the Lionhearted,” Colonel Lee said.

“That's a heavy, heavy load.”

“My name is Lee.”

“Ever occurred to you that you could change it?”

“At the same time it occurred to me to have a sex change.”

Captain Thompson was caught by surprise and laughed heartily.

“Doesn't look like you had that done yet, sir.”

“Your assessment is accurate.”

“All right, I already knew that about you. We just surfaced it. Here is the other issue, Colonel. You know, your Leas and Lees later on must have had more balance in their life than you do, because you are here, 1,000 years later.”

Captain Thompson knew he had to be careful here … Colonel Lee's traumas around gaining and losing his wife were still all too raw, and as a whole bunch of people in the Blue Ridge neighborhood had nearly found out, that set of emotions could take him over the edge.

“It is an interesting observation.”

“I think, Colonel, that because you made every effort and still failed to be able to save your wife, and then because of what you nearly did afterward to your Slocum-Lofton relatives, you are terrified of opening any of those doors again.

“So: you have something constructive to do with your grief and rage – Special Forces gave you that, then JAG gave you that, and now police work is giving you a combination of both. You have gotten along doing that for 27 years, with those other doors still bolted shut, and, at the rate you are going, you will be able to leave police work knowing that the department is squeaky clean in about another year.”

“Next month,” Colonel Lee said, “with maybe 11 months of mop up.”

Captain Thompson nearly jumped out of his chair.

“OK,” he said, “let's just take that for an idea. I could see you getting involved on the data side of politics – investigating the corrupt, taking down the corrupt ones that remain after all the ones fall just by virtue of what is already being done. By that time, someone will want you to have a bigger platform – you could make a lateral move to DHS or the CIA, and, by retirement age, you could be running either one of both. It's possible. You don't ever have to heal, Colonel. You are so good at living this half-life that you don't have to heal if you don't want to. No one does – but you? You could get away with it in the eyes of the whole world, until the cognitive dissonance in your mind finally snapped it. 20 good years, Colonel. Maybe 30. Maybe you'd get out of here by natural causes before the snap.”

“Maybe not,” Colonel Lee said, with a shiver. “When you put it like that, Captain, it becomes truly horrible to consider.”

“I thought I could help you,” Captain Thompson said. “Here's something you're not good at, Colonel. You know what your duties are, and you know the limitations of your vast abilities. You are self-aware, and self-expressive, yet at the same time your self-control is stunning. But what you have become really bad at, really bad, is knowing what it is you really want out of life. There's all this you do so well to do life, as it was given to you after your wife's death – three brilliant careers thus far. But when have you said, aloud, what it is that you want? Or do you not say it, because you have locked it behind all those walls and doors?”

Colonel Lee sat very quietly for a moment.

“What I want, there is no point in asking for,” he said. “I asked for it, and it was denied me, and I accepted that and made the best of what I was given instead.”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“No,” Colonel Lee said. “But, perhaps I should.”

The colonel reached under his shirt, and drew out the entire gold chain he always wore, and showed his therapist the amber ring he had given his wife.

“Had Vanessa Morton Lee lived, I probably would have been happily crunching data for Morton Technologies for much of these 27 intervening years since her death. I certainly would not have gone into Special Forces. My brilliant careers? A poor substitute for just her living, and us having our family.

“I asked that she might live, with our son. I asked that I might rejoin them, swiftly. That was close. I had a stroke at the age of 18, at the funeral. The Army hushed that and several other things up to get me back to West Point and its plans for me. I did not know any of that. I assumed that since the Lord had denied me both my requests, and done a practical miracle in my complete recovery, that He intended for me to live life to the best of my abilities where I was. It was not at all what I wanted. But it is what I was given.”

“Are you angry with God about it?”

“No. I have always been a practical man, spiritually. God is God. He does not exist to serve me, nor to do things that are to my pleasure. He took my beloved and our son out of this evil world, and as I have aged and matured I have come to be more and more grateful that they, as precious as they were, are with the Lord. My wife suffered much in her 18 years of life – so brilliant in a country unprepared to receive her genius. I thank God I was able to give her three years of provision and protection, and the greatest happiness she would know, if only for that little while that she held her child in her arms, and knew that she had lived to deliver him. I never told her Henry Victor, too, was dying. It was only the difference of two minutes. They slept away in my arms, and everything I have ever wanted in life went with them.”

“So what did you do?”

“I planned their funerals. What else?”

“No, Colonel. I don't mean the who, the what, the when, the where, the why, and the how. Where did you take that fact – 18 years old, and bereft of everything you ever wanted in life?”

Captain Thompson marveled at his patient, who engaged in deep thought while tears were streaming down his face. Colonel Lee had compensated dramatically in intellect for the damage to his emotions – it was actually terrifying to consider, along with his clear self-awareness.

“I didn't take it anywhere. I have worn it around my neck for 27 years.”

“All right. Here's the question, Colonel. We're going to stop right here. Do you want to take it off and let it go, or, do you play the long-term game? You are a brilliant tactician. A decade, two, three – maybe you die of natural causes before you run yourself over an edge you can't get back across, mentally and emotionally. Everything will be fine as far as the watching world is concerned – until it isn't. You nearly went out spectacularly at 18, up the side of a hill in the Blue Ridge neighborhood. It frankly amazes me that you've made it to 45 – but you are exceptionally strong. You are. You can spend your strength however you choose. What do you want?”

Colonel Lee did not hesitate.

“I began therapy because I want to heal. I do know what I want.”

“And you've been making some good strides until this last three days – spending time with people in your support networks, spending time in nature, picking up your music again. I trust you don't plan to work any more extended shifts this week.”

“No. The purpose of those is complete. 10-2 tomorrow, and then I am off for the weekend.”

“Where are you going this weekend?”

“Tinyville, to be with my cousin and his family.”

“Major Hamilton – a good man. His therapist had to be out some weeks ago and I saw him. A good man, well-fitted to you and vice versa.”

“A blessing in my life, with his family. He stays after me to keep my individual appointments and stay in the group – but recently I have not needed the reminder.”

And, quite suddenly, Captain Thompson was startled as “the general” looked out of his nephew's eyes, and filled his voice with imperative force.

“I want to heal, Captain. That is what I want. I have told the Lord I was finally ready to let go of what I must and embrace what I must – I want to heal.”

“You sound like you are sure, Colonel.”

“I am certain. Thank you for your help in knowing how certain.”

“Same time next week?”

“Yes. Barring a break in the case I am working now at that precise time, I will be here.”

“See you then, Colonel.”

Colonel Lee drove home to his apartment, thoroughly exhausted but resolute. Into his closet, into a little fire-proof box where he kept several precious items … after 27 years, he reached up around his neck, and took off the chain and the ring he had worn, not because he was about to go into some form of combat in which he might have to shed blood, but because it was time to let go. It had been time for some time. He had been resisting it, but … Captain Thompson was right.

The memories flooded back, and the widower just let them come, the clarity of his memory serving up three tumultuous years full of struggle, love, triumph, and loss. But he did complete the thought... Vanessa Morton Lee and Henry Victor Lee were with the Lord, in their final and endless triumph, and so it was no betrayal for the widower and father they had left behind to also move on with a whole life. It was no betrayal. It was no betrayal … in fact, it was the right thing to do, and the only thing to do if they had left him a legacy of love worth continuing.

Peace flooded the soul of Henry Fitzhugh Lee, and with it came a flood of tears, of surrender, of relief, as he crumpled onto the bed, and wept, and then slept nine hours. The box was still open on the bed when he woke. Gently he kissed the ring his wife had worn, one last time – and found there were still a few tears left, but that was all right – and then carefully coiled up the ring and chain and put them in the box, which he then put back in his place in the closet. Afterward, it was time to get ready for work.

Day 33 is up