There was no way the man could avoid the deer. Two cars behind, I watched as he thought about swerving and then decided to go straight. Then the collision, the deer sliding across the hood of the silver minivan, knees buckling as it hit the ground before it leapt up, awkwardly and away, its hooves smashing the piles of fall leaves, its haunches breaking the branches as it fled into the woods. The man pulled his car over to the shoulder and stepped out to assess the damage. As he walked around to look at the hood, he held his head in his hands, as if trying not to weep, the lines of his body taut with frustration.
I wanted to weep too, but for different reasons.
It had seemed so clear in early summer, driving thin roads between cornfields, flush with the glow of sun. I could see my bright burning heart, flame lit, a path I might follow, as simple as that road heading out towards the horizon, an even and steady stretch of asphalt with clear markings and exits.
But summer sun gave way to the long lines of autumn, the growing dark, the nights now longer, the days shorter. And then there was winter—haze, snow drifts, cold hands, cold body, cold breath appearing like smoke before my face, disappearing. And I felt instead all tangled inside, an unspooled loop of ribbon, fragile, knotted, not a skein that could be set straight, not a line leading anywhere.
That empty bed—cold too, a rudderless boat in which I drifted. I tried the left side. I tried the right side. I tried the center. I simply didn’t fit, that heart in me didn’t fit, not the lit one, not the empty one, only the middle one, the bruised one, that sharp edged one, that dumb animal one, its teeth worrying away at the meat of me.
As if I had been the deer, still carrying the aftermath of that fall afternoon. As if that was what I was, simply the product of collision, of coming violently into contact, breaking open, spilling.