Saturday, February 11, 2017

What the Heart Wants (#PTSD #war #hemingway @MyWarWithHem)

My War with Hemingway  cover

By James Charles (Guest Blogger)

Emily Dickinson said, “The heart wants, what the heart wants.”

When two people fall in love, there is nothing that can separate them. Zach, a young veteran in MY WAR WITH HEMINGWAY, (AMAZON: ( who struggles with PTSD, alcoholism and intimacy, is afraid to lose anyone. He lost his mother at a young age to suicide, lost his father to alcoholism, lost friends in the wars. When he meets a girl in college (Jessica), who comes from a wealthy family, he tries to keep his distance from her because he cant understand why she would be interested in him (a poor boy from a small town). However, as they fall in love, her family conspires to keep her away from him.
She stabilizes him, his alcoholism is not as profound when hes with her, and his PTSD and hallucinations with Ernest Hemingway subside. She disappears. As a result, Zach tailspins into despair and ends up near death.

However, as Emily said above, there is nothing that can keep two people from one another. With great odds, they come together again, but Zach must overcome his conditions, including her trust.

Inside my room, I sit on the edge of my bed and take my shoes and socks off, stand and undress, tossing my clothes on a chair. I jump into the shower and blow the mist onto the shower wall. I think back to New Orleans. Did Stein really save my life that day?

After a hot, steamy shower, I exit the bathroom with the towel wrapped around my waist. I rummage through my bag and find a pair of underwear, toss them on the bed, and grab my toothbrush and paste. I return to the bathroom and brush my teeth. I rinse, spit, and go back over to the bed. I drop my towel to the floor, grab my underwear and while pulling them up, Jess opens the door and slips in as if she’s evading a freight train speeding down the hallway. Just as quickly, she closes the door. “What’re you doing?” I say. “Are you crazy?”

She only wears a large T-shirt that hangs just below her waist. She hurries over to me. “Yes. I think I’m crazy for you.” She pushes me backwards and I fall over onto the bed, coming to rest on my back. Because of her parents, is she enjoying this defiance, this danger? She jumps on top of me and kisses me.

In between passionate kisses, I try to speak. “I don’t,” kiss, “think,” kiss, “this,” kiss, “is,” kiss, “a,” kiss, “good,” kiss, “idea.”

Oh, I do,” she says. Her hair cascades onto my face and chest as she works my lips with hers.
I get an erection. “Your father will kill me. He probably has the means to make me disappear or something.”

My father is a scheming troll,” she says while kissing me.

Wow. Tell me how you really feel.”

She stops and looks me right in the eyes. “I really feel like doing this.”

Your parents are right down the hall,” I plead.

She kisses my neck. “This tells me you do too,” she says squeezing my boy.

I do. I do. It’s just not the right time.” She rolls off me, lays her head on my chest and runs her fingers through my hair that has grown in since leaving the army. It is not too long, but I’m now able to comb it over on top with a little glob of gel. “I really do like you, Jess. But we can’t do this now. Here.”

I more than like you, Zach,” she says kissing my chest. “I think I’m falling in love with you. I don’t know how I’m going to concentrate on my studies now.”

Funny. We’ll get you through your studies.” We lie there for a few minutes. “Why did you go to Columbia and not Yale like your brother?”

Are you kidding? I didn’t want my brother spying on me and reporting to daddy.”

So, you don’t think I won them over?”

I don’t care. I enjoy being with you, Zach. You’re different. I’ve had a couple of boyfriends, but they were typical. They just wanted sex. You’re really sweet and such a gentleman.”

I run my fingers through her hair and we continue lying together for a few minutes. “We better say goodnight,” I say.

Goodnight,” she says.

You have to go back to your own room.”

Oh, all right.” She gives me a long wet kiss. I escort her to the door where she looks me up and down. “I could eat you from head to toe.”

I bet you say that to all the guys.”

We embrace and kiss again. “Like I just said, you’ve been a real gentleman, Zachary Powell. When I get you back to New York, look out.”

I’m a veteran and wrote this story as an amalgamation of several veterans. However, it’s not a depressing overview of a veteran with PTSD, rather an interesting, and often comic relief story whereby Zach interacts with the historical Ernest Hemingway (quite the character himself). Zach kept a journal in combat, he wrote stories for the high school newspaper, and he reads a lot of books (something soldiers do in their barracks in Iraq and Afghanistan where they have a lot of “down-time”. Please consider donating old books to organizations that ship books to soldiers).

Hence, Hemingway is interwoven into Zach’s situation because they have a lot in common; such as Hemingway’s father killed himself, Hemingway was an ambulance driver in WWI and suffered great physical, and some would say psychological wounds, and Hemingway was an alcoholic. In any event, Hemingway not only saves Zach from suicide, but becomes his writing mentor at the college newspaper and his counselor as he struggles to accept Jessica’s love.

Excerpt (With Ernest Hemingway)

I close the door and flop onto the bed with my clothes still on. Damn, am I in some sort of dream world?

I don’t think so,” he says.

Jesus, Hem. Stop doing that.” I sit up as he sits and hands me his flask. I swig. “Absinthe again?”

Your girl’s airtight.” He takes the flask back.

Airtight? More nineteen twenties lingo?”

Hey, that was a hell of a time, ya know.”

Yeah. I’ve heard. Then it all went to pot.”

He shrugs. “It always does.”

It’s been awhile. Where’ve you been?”

You’ve been busy.”

But why now?”

You’re conflicted.”

Conflicted? What’re you my shrink?”

She’s inviting you in, kid.”

Yeah,” I sigh, “I know.”

You have to let it go.”


But nothing. We shot fear in the eye.”

I nod.

He gets up and goes to the door. “You want me to go a few rounds with the bastard?” He play punches the air.

No. I can fight my own battles.”

Have it your way.” He opens the door and tiptoes down the hall. I have to get up and close the door after the loon.

At last, days later, Zach allows Jessica to take him:

I hold her hand as we cross the street and head back to my apartment. I don’t even get the door closed before she pushes me up against the wall. I drop my computer on the chair next to the door and she is all over me. Trying to get the words out between kisses, I say, “I don’t know if anyone’s here.”

Hello?” she calls out. “Dale? Basir?” She hurries around and surveys their rooms. “Nope. No one here.” She jumps into my arms, wrapping her legs around my waist and kisses me. In this position, I carry her to my room, close the door, and fall over with her onto the bed. We tear one another’s clothes off. “Wow,” I say struggling again between kisses. “You’re an animal.”

She kisses me on my abs and works her way up to my nipples. She gently kisses my bullet scar and ravishes my neck. She works her way across my chest, then my abdomen, and goes down on me.
At last, I reciprocate, kissing her breasts. I kiss her belly and explore her with my tongue, her moaning so loud I worry someone will hear and I’ll get evicted.

I come up for air, locate a condom from my nightstand, tear open the packet with my teeth, and roll it on. She climbs on top and writhes, moving up and down. We enjoy intercourse for several minutes. I try as long as I can to hold it, wanting it to last forever.

But I can’t.

She stays on top and holds on. We are so out of breath neither of us speaks. Several minutes pass. I can tell her heartbeat is returning to normal. “Are you okay?” I say.

She kisses me and rolls off. “I am in love with you.” She toys with my nipple, the one I almost lost. I take a deep breath and exhale. “What was that for?” she says.

I shrug.

Zachary,” she says, an upturn in her voice.

It’s just that, well, I’ve never done it like this before.”

What?” she says pulling her head up to look in my eyes.

Well, I’ve never, you now, made love before. It was always only sex.”

Oh? How was it?”

Extraordinary,” I whisper in her ear while running my fingers through her hair. “I have this deep feeling in my gut. I’ve never felt this intensity before.” A tear runs down my cheek. I turn away trying to hide it from her, but she sees it and wipes at it with her finger.

She snuggles up and lays her head on my shoulder, saying, “I know what you mean.”

I kiss her on the top of her head. Her hair smells so sweet. We lie there in silence for the longest time holding one another and kissing some more. I fondle her breasts, kissing them. She plays with my penis and this time she lies back. Yet again we enjoy sweet intercourse.

I pivot to her side, still inside, and while holding her, I drift off to sleep not aware of what happens next until she tells me some time later.

After this scene, Jessica’s parents make her disappear, and Zach feels betrayed, descends into alcoholism, and bizarre situations with Hemingway occur putting Zach’s life in danger.

Although there is tragedy along the way, love wins out in the end and it is a happy ending; who wants to be left with no hope after reading a book?

Many Americans are burnt out over the most recent wars, and although this story begins in a dramatic, combat-related fashion, the essence of the story is one of hope and love wins out. “The heart wants what the heart wants.”

About the Author

James is a veteran and now an administrator with the Los Angeles Unified School District. His other books are listed on his website below. His 6th book, a romance novel, Spirit of the Amaroq: A Story of Salvation is forthcoming.


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Lisabet Sarai said...


Thanks for being my guest. This sounds like a truly original book. I love novels that don't fit into neat genre cubbyholes.

James Charles said...

Thank you, Lisabet. I'll let you know when Spirit of the Amaroq is out. James.

Kayelle Allen said...

Thanks for sharing, Lisabet, and for hosting James.

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