Thursday, April 10, 2014

suffering and beauty.

One night, driving along the dark ribbon of Highway 550, I see movement. The movement becomes a shape; the shape a deer. A doe, struggling to stand and move out of the road. She rises halfway and her back legs crumple to the ground. She is broken. I'm at a dead stop now; don't know what to do, can't find the switch to put my hazards on, fumbling clumsily with one eye on the deer and the other on the headlights swiftly approaching in my rearview mirror. I drive forward, hoping that someone behind me has a gun to put her out of her misery. Suffering is the one thing I cannot bear to contemplate too deeply. When I arrive at the hot springs, I decide, I'll tell someone, ask what they would've done, ask to use the phone. Who should I call? The sheriff? There are so many deer around here.

There is no blood in the road. None.

At the desk of the hot springs, the woman who takes my $10 is beautiful and disinterested. She's talking to a co-worker; neither of them look at my face. For the second time this night, I am uncertain. It's light in here, and warm. The cold dark road is so distant it feels like it may not have been real.

I wish I carried a rifle.

I step outside again, naked, prancing across the cold ground like a deer myself, then ease into the steaming pool. There are two old men sitting at its ledge. A couple embracing. A woman talking to no one who says she's from a city and marvels aloud at the stars, which are indeed magnificent. So many bright pinpricks of light. I wonder who I could approach about the deer, but weighing my options, each seems too awkward and so I float on my back instead, submerging my ears into the silence of the pool.

I think, likely, that she will drag herself off the road and be killed by coyotes. That's not such a bad end. Then I think of all the other cars speeding down that dark road at 60 miles an hour and realize she will probably be hit again; that she will die slowly, her blood seeping onto the roadside, watching without comprehension as loud, bright machines roar past with no regard for her pain.

I think about the time I moved to Vermont and saw a dead doe and her fawn, 20 feet apart on the side of the highway. It seemed a bad omen for starting over in a new place. I cried for miles, wondering which died first and which, struck by grief, wandered nearby until it too was killed.

I think about my dog, who was struck by a car one night while I was out partying. I wasn't there, but I've relived the scene in my mind over and over again. He didn't die right away. He waited on the cold table of the vet's office until they could reach me at a bar across the state and get my permission for strangers to put him down.

Roadkill made me cry even before that.

There in the water, surrounded by lovers and strangers, thinking of suffering and death and whatever implicit roles I've played in both, I stare through the steaming breath of the earth to the mountains and stars beyond and for a moment, the veil lifts. For the space of a breath, I understand that we are small and insignificant. And yet at the same time, it doesn't feel that way. How can this be just another night, one among billions and billions on this spinning planet?

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