The human mind is a time-travel machine.
Where specific sensory stimulus;
a whiff of scent, a string of notes, a tactile sensation,
opens a wormhole through which we fall.
Instantly bringing us back there.
As if time and space didn’t exist.
To relive, not remember, a certain experience in our life.

Whit the smell of a certain compact powder,
I hear – Wake me up before you go, go – smell
the Mediterranean sea and see charter tourist
doing morning gymnastics from a hotel balcony on Rhodes.

Most plastic Santa masks instantly make me feel afraid,
like that Christmas Day when mommy was out of the house
and our drunken neighbor decided to dress as Santa,
then sneak up to our window, and scratch it.
He scared me and my younger brother silly.

The sensation of petting a Cocker Spaniel,
and my hands feel my own dog
tugging on his leash as he always did.

If I smell Old Spice the resulting flashback
evokes the only memories I have of my father.
His smell, his beard, his steady presence.

These are ordinary everyday flashbacks.

Then my phone rings.
The voice in the other end instantly make me small, insignificant.
A constant barrage of criticism all blend together,
until I’m nine years old and hear my mother tell me straight.
“If I’d had a choice, you would have died at birth, so your father could live.”
My heart pounds and my mouth dries.
I feel tears forming, tears I know I can’t shed,
because if I do, I’ll get ridiculed.
One day when this happens for the umpteen time,
I decide to severely limit our contact.

I go to a fortieth birthday bash, where I smell moonshine
mixed with a certain soft drink. My head starts spinning,
like the first time I ever had alcohol, even though
I haven’t drunk anything yet.
Panic curses through my body,
as I feel a hand taking a choke hold,
while the other starts tugging at my clothes.
I try to fight, but I’m to small, to drunk, to defend myself.
Suddenly a voice that don’t belong in this flashback breaks through,
my friend who steadily tells me that this is now, not then.
The spell breaks, the wormhole collapse and I’m curdled up in a corner,
without any recollection of how I got there.

These are wholly consuming flashbacks of PTSD.
Years of therapy have made them fewer,
but the triggers will stay for the rest of my life.


Written for Björns prompt at Toads ~ Timetravel – Flashbacks with Björn
He ends his post with this line – ” Swim with care, the pond is deeper than you think.” And I can only agree. This prompt made me think differently about flashbacks and how I view and handle them.

4 thoughts on “Flashbacks

Add yours

    1. I’ve been mulling over if I should really use all I’d written since Friday night. If I really dared go that dark. But since flashbacks have been on my mind even before your prompt, I opted for openness and honesty. My hope is that someday, someone else will get helped by me sharing.

  1. I hadn’t heard of PTSD until late in life. But certain events, words, sights, etc. trigger my mind back into the sight of my dad swinging a chair over my mom’s head. He was a terror, two undeserved beatings and a semi box on my ears come to me vividly. No therapy for that in my day. Dad did have a complete reversal st my age of nine or ten though the boxes on my ears lasted.

  2. My oldest, dearest friend, a Vietnam vet suffers from PTSD. I have witnessed the crippling effects and would not wish it on anyone. Thank you for a brave write.

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