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Mental Health Art Exhibition

The Pint 6.jpg

 

 

The Pint 

Post-traumatic stress disorder

Luke and Pete leaned on the trench wall, watching the dust rise as a gust of wind went by. They could feel the dirt making their way into their eyes, as the rest of the dust formed a dry paste in their mouth.

 

 “Who are you thinking of mate? I bet you’re thinking of Amanda back home,” said Pete as he sipped some water.

 

“Yes. Well…actually…I’m ashamed to admit it, but no, I’m really thinking of a cold pint; I’m gulping it down like we did during our pint races–oh, that feels sooo good, now it’s dribbling down my neck and I can feel the coolness in my tummy.” Luke had his eyes shut while describing the scene in between some giggles. Pete smirked at him.

 

“Clearly, you are not describing the beer from our brewery.” Pete laughed.

 

 “No way, when we get back home, we need to organize an all stock must go clearance party, all beer is on us, we need to get rid of it...” Luke laughed, closed his eyes, and whispered, “pint I’m counting down the days, get ready.”

 

“Why do you torture yourself like this? No free-flowing pints here, but it’s a deal, when we get back, we will have a pint party; I gotta get Clive onto it.” 

 

The two brought their fists together, then they brought them to their mouths and took a sip from their imaginary pint. Luke and Pete sat on the side of the hot dirt mount that protected them from the enemy and dreamt of the pint waiting for them back at the Pop in Pub. 

***

 

The once chilled golden liquid, topped with a thick layer of soft froth, which had created condensation around the glass, now sat warm and untouched at the local hometown pub. For Luke, the pint he had so much desired in Afghanistan, now represented a bundle of emotions he just couldn’t cut through.

Luke stroked the glass; it felt odd; it didn’t feel right. The glass, the froth, the beer, and the gesture didn’t resonate with him anymore. Luke picked up his pint and brought it to his mouth. The thick layer of froth had not touched his mouth when he gaged. The sweet fruity smell of the yeast, malt, and hops that would typically ignite his senses now smelt like the blood in Afghanistan. He didn’t see the soothing golden liquid through the froth but saw mutilated bodies swimming and screaming in agony. The pint felt warm, like Pete’s blood dripping on Luke’s body as he held his friend tight and watched him die.  

 

Luke brought his hand to his mouth to hold down his bile. He felt he could never find pleasure in a beer again or enjoy anything around him anymore. He believed he had nothing to give his girlfriend because he was a changed man now—a man ripped open by suffering which he didn’t know where and how to channel, so he withdrew. He now felt like those little mutilated soldiers underneath the froth.

 

Luke had joined the long list of heroes that got soldier’s heart—a heart that had absorbed just a touch too much anguish and sorrow ; after all, no one is expected to witness such unimaginable scenes of bloodshed and come out untouched, nor should they go through events outside normal human experience and be expected to fit in with the rest of their community, who has not experienced such graphic scenes of suffering.  

 

That was why Clive, the third musketeer and former soldier effected by soldier’s heart, opened the Pop in Pub, where soldiers got together to talk about stuff that only they knew about.

 

“Luke, your beer is getting warm. Would you like me to replace it?” Clive asked.

 

Luke didn’t reply. For Luke the pain of that intrusive memory when Pete was struck and died in his arms, just wouldn’t go away; he felt guilty to let go of it, because suffering was the thread that kept Luke attached to Pete, until Luke knew know other than becoming attached to suffering—a somewhat paradoxical and comforting feeling. 

 

Clive took the beer away, replaced it with two chilled ones, and sat next to Luke. Clive recalled the happy backyard brewing days, just the three of them making an extra buck by selling their own beer. Then off to work, Clive behind the same bar serving, Peter playing the guitar in the corner, while Luke, the storyteller, gathered the crowds with his stories. Now Luke just sat and listened; no other story mattered after the traumatic one he had lived. 

 

Clive knew Luke was strong, but how strong he couldn’t be sure. He knew the red bloody liquid that Luke saw in his pint would one day turn golden again. The scent of malt and hops would return to his life, and he would draw a crowd again. But for now, Luke just stared at the pint. Clive wondered if Luke would ever be able to pick it up and drink from it again, or if he would pick it up too often. Clive’s job as a soldier now was behind the counter, to keep an eye on that elbow, and when Luke would raise it, he would make sure it would be to celebrate and not to cope.

 

I dedicate this painting to all our soldiers that carry pain, grief and trauma because they chose to protect us. Continue to rise above your potential like you did on the battlefield and show the rest of the world how to celebrate small steps that lead to big victories. The world needs you.

Adrian Hill,  author, educator, and art therapist was assigned on the battlefield to sketch the disposition of the enemy during World War 1. Upon his return he was asked to help traumatized soldiers returning from the war to process what they had seen. He used art and art therapy with great results.

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