Thursday, September 24, 2009

The girl I never met

I accepted an invitation to join some fellow Vietnam veterans who get together once a week to share poems that they've written about their post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

It turns out that it's therapeutic to express inner fears and feelings and share them.

When I returned from Vietnam, I also wrote a few poems. The interesting thing is that I didn't know that I was doing the same thing these vets are doing today -- I was expressing inner fears and feelings.

PTSD works in strange ways, it turns out.

Because my job in Vietnam was to work alone at night with only my dog, I didn't develop many of those close friendships with fellow soldiers that my colleagues who fought in other wars may have developed.

My best friends were the two dogs I worked mostly with: Fritz and Ralph (the cute little fellow in the photo).

When I got out of the Army, I went straight in to Los Angeles Pierce Community College with the belief that I'd end up a veterinarian (I'll tell you the amazing story about how that dream came about, but in a later posting). One of the first classes I took was astronomy. If you go back into the earlier blogs, you'll read about the constellation Southern Cross. It's connected to that.

It was in my astronomy class that an attactive and friendly looking young woman attracted my attention. What I didn't know back then, was that the early signs of my PTSD were showing up.

After weeks of wishing that I could be her friend, but being unable to make it happen, I wrote the poem.

I never gave it to her.

In preparation for meeting with the veterans' poetry group, I found the old poem. When I read it, I immediately understood what was at work in my mind.

The Girl I Never Met
By Don Ray

You might be Sue or Cindy —
Monique, Marie, Michele.
You could be Cathy, Kay or Chris
As far as I can tell.

Your name is, quite regrettably,
Unknown to me as yet.
Unless we’re introduced, you’ll be
The girl I never met.

That day when I first saw you,
A month or so ago,
I vainly tried to smile at you
And simply say, “Hello.”

We see each other frequently —
A dozen times a week.
I can’t help feeling close to you
Although we never speak.

I wonder if you wonder
What I’m thinking when I stare.
If you think I think I’m good for you,
You haven’t got a prayer.

I guess I should explain it now —
My silence from the start —
Thought I appear unsociable,
I’m cowardly at heart.

So be happy that we’re strangers.
It’s really not profound.
As long as I don’t know you
I can never let you down.

You’ll always be a friend to me
But, one day, I’ll regret
I never really got to know
The girl I never met.
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Brigham said...

There is pathos and pain behind those lines you wrote... I will never understand the full intent of meaning, but God bless you for serving our Republic in Vietnam!

Liza said...

I really like it :) You are a very inspiraional and bright guy. Thanks for sharing this.

Anonymous said...

Too Many guys came back with PTSD from service in Vietnam...and now from all current conflicts...Vietnam also had the wonderful chemistry that keeps on giving! Agent Orange! I believe you knew my Vietnam Vet...Jerry was not very lucky as he had both PTSD for many many years and CLL which roared its ugly head 40 years after his return to California...Vietnam took my man from me and our kids, Jocelyn, Alex and Zach on 10/10/10. If you want to contact and help me with plans to roar my frustration and help Vietnam Vets... I'm in Temecula I think you know the last name.....

Don Ray said...

I'm so sorry about your Jerry. Yes, I'd like to connect with you. My e-mail address is
Also, I'm not sure if I responded to Brigham and Liza. Now I will. Thanks so much for your kind words and . . . you're welcome!