I just finished reading Love My Rifle More Than You. I related to a lot of it, though not all. I think the author and I are very different girls, but some things are the same. Many things are different. I never experienced any guy physically grabbing me, I didn't watch anyone take their last breaths, and I always got to piss in a port-a-john.
But she talked a lot about withdrawing, because she didn't want to deal with advances anymore, and I could relate to that. Just completely shutting down, shutting everyone out, because you are sick and tired of being taken advantage of if you open yourself up to some of the guys you work with. You don't smile, you don't make eye contact, no small talk, no friendliness that could possibly be misinterpreted for an open door for an advance.
She had her waking dreams, as did I. The ones that consume you after the fact. The medic flirting with me my first time volunteering in the E.D. (me thinking "is this really happening?", trying not to be rude but trying to make it stop) and they wheel in the bloody, hairy Latino guy, kind of stubby, mostly I remember him being really bloody and everyone snapping into a frenzy, shouting and pointing and waving and working. I'm standing there, kind of stunned, tossing gauze and blankets and syringes at whoever yells loudest. And suddenly one nurse flips the guy on his side and jams two fingers up the guy's ass, a cavity check. I reeled. I was not expecting that. My stomach churned. It was a lot all at once, a very salient, bloody memory that I have never really spoken of until now.
Then they wheeled they guy out, on his way to xrays and surgery and the ICU and Germany and home. And the medic immediately resumed flirting, and I remember feeling angry and indignant, sick to my stomach, like screw you, screw you all, you animals, did you even feel ANYTHING watching that guy bleed all over the floor.
In hindsight I know it's a coping mechanism, how else could we deal, other than to pretend life is normal? It's all part of the job description, we maintain our cool and calm and plow through each day, flirting with the new female volunteers no matter what crosses our paths in the meanwhile, attempting to retain a sense of normalcy.
But I couldn't make sense of it, never have.