Volume Two

A Paean

by Kristen Scott

You know how there can sometimes be an incident, something that happens to you, that you replay over and over in your head? It wasn’t a happy incident, yet you can’t break free from it. It can be something completely inconsequential to someone else, yet you can’t stop that tape in your head from just rewinding over and over until it becomes not a tape, but a CD that’s stuck on repeat. Just the same crappy CD over and over until you become a raving lunatic. You want to change the music, but there’s nothing else to choose from. You want to leave the room, but you can’t. If you do the music will follow. It will follow you until… you can’t stand it anymore and you’re quivering from the sheer strain of it all. You run and run and run to no avail because it will even follow you to lands that don’t exist. Imagine for a moment that you’re deserted on an island and the only thing you have to listen to is Vanilla Ice. It’s pure, unadulterated torture. 

I’ve felt like that since that night. I unintentionally grip the steering wheel a little tighter when I drive down that dark, country road. I slow down and creep towards the clearing, where the road opens up a bit more and the trees become less dense. I hate the crowding feeling of the trees hanging over the road and the terror that waits on the sidelines, deep in the woods. It’s ready to spring at you when you least expect it.

When my heart starts to pound, I curse myself for trying to stand up to my phobia and wish I had just taken 145. It is a more direct route to my destination, but the traffic and stoplights irritate me. I would hate to squander my opportunity to leave civilization at least momentarily a few times a week. That’s why I think it’s my stubbornness that sends me the country route four nights a week. Someday I might figure out that I’ll never win and will possibly lose some more before this is all through.

I like being out, alone in the dark, with the music blasting and the woods closing in, taking the sharp turns at speeds well above the recommended limit. It’s placid yet exciting and freeing, especially freeing from the confines of the city. I certainly wouldn’t want to be in that setting all the time though. All that nature makes me nervous, especially the unpredictability of it all. I know what’s going to happen to me in the city and they are constants – vandalism, theft, destruction of property, noise and garbage. I’m not saying that these things are pleasant, but it’s not out there, where the wild things live. Where anything can happen at any time.

I remember that night and how that asshole in front of me knew. How could he have known? I want to know that. Did he have the radar activated on his dilapidated Honda Civic? I was riding his ass the whole way down that first street. There were so many people in that little car and they were driving so impossibly slow and I just wanted to get up to Egypt, pick him up, and go home. Work had been long and annoying, and I believe that was the night I had first encountered that rude leather jeans guy, who doesn’t play a part in this story. He has a minor role in another story that has really nothing to do with this one, other than it happens a few days later during one of my city constants.

If I remember correctly he was the rude jerk I was thinking of when I saw that the incident was about to happen. I remember pondering about why people are so rude when they’re shopping and for absolutely no good reason. I’m happy to see them come up to the cash register because I know that I’m only moments away from resuming whatever book I’m reading. I get paid (not very much) to sit on my ass and read, study, watch Netflix (if I have the internet) or just stare into space and listen to my music. It’s the greatest job in the world; for now at least, because if I had to do that for the rest of my life I’d go stark raving mad. It can get quite dull, especially if it’s been hours between customers. A few years like that and my ambivalence would evaporate and I’d be like the other girls, who get excited when someone comes in.

The Civic slowed to a crawl after we both made the left at the first four way stop. We were barely doing 10 mph and my blood was pumping. I wanted home so badly at this point and my journey had hardly begun. I was just making the first turn. There were four more to go and they were widely spaced turns. The Civic finally pulled over to let me pass a few hundred yards into the woods. I flew past, giving him and his six passengers the one-finger salute.

Finally, I could get going so I could get there and get home. It was late and I was dreaming of the Sam Adams chilling in the refrigerator and awaiting my arrival when I cranked the volume on the latest Cursive album. It was one of those that I had heard a million times, but never actually listened to it, so I thought the ride out there would be a good time to zone out to some music. That really is the appeal of the whole rustic atmosphere – a perfect place to really enjoy some music while not having to endure other’s less stellar musical choices at the same time.  

Satisfied with the cacophony I had caused in the still, late summer night, I glanced up to see a family of deer about to cross the road. I immediately went for the brake, but remembered something my uncle had told me, about how if you slam on the brakes you mess up your car and if you speed up your car can come away unscathed. The whole reason I had embarked on this journey was because we were short a car and if something happened to this one we were in big trouble. Sure insurance would pay, but what about getting to work tomorrow? The clock was ticking and I had to make a decision quickly. My mind went blank.

It was too late now to slam on the brakes. The Civic seemed miles behind me though I hadn’t traveled very far, and the deer seemed close enough to touch. I moved my foot back to the gas and gunned it. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw most of them scatter to safety, but one stayed, frozen in the headlights. You always hear that expression “like a deer caught in the headlights”, but I had never actually witnessed it. It’s one of those stupid things that you never think are true, but they actually are. Take my word for it.

We locked eyes until the impact. Then there was a moment of silence until I simultaneously heard and felt the thud and the deer flew high up into the air, while at the same time splattering my windshield and the hood of the car with dark, meaty chunks. The deer landed soundlessly on the side of the road and I kept going. I had made a conscious decision to hit the gas, which made me feel terrible, but I also knew that if I had hit the brakes he still might have died or had just been horribly injured. It wasn’t good no matter what I did. I don’t think the Civic ever caught up to me.

I drove for a little bit and felt like I had an out of body experience at the same time. I saw myself in the car staring straight ahead no longer hearing the music. I saw the first tear roll down my cheek. I saw myself staring at the chunks covering the outside of my car. I was afraid to turn on the windshield wipers because I imagined my windshield growing crimson and looking like something out of a horror movie. It still had a horror movie feel with those chunks that could easily be denied away into chunks of mud as opposed to venison. Yes, it was mud. The deer was dirty from spending his evening frolicking through patches of mud on a family night out. Suddenly my mind was filled with images of Bambi and Thumper and the tears ceased for a moment. Then I hit a bump and a chunk oozed down the windshield leaving a dark crimson smear 

I suddenly didn’t want to be alone anymore, and I picked up my phone. I had reached the second turn by this time. Dialing his number turned off the music and I was alone in the quiet of the late night with only the ringing of the phone in my ear and the crickets all around me. He answered and I blubbered something about hitting a deer. After reassuring him that the car and I were both perfectly fine, except for the chunks, I continued to hyperventilate the rest of the way there. I think he asked me to pull over a few times, but I just wanted to get there so I didn’t have to drive anymore. I had had enough fun for one night.

I had asked him to stay on the phone with me until I got there, and he did. When he started to run out of things to say, he asked me if the deer had flown pretty high when I hit it and wasn’t it cool when that happened. My leather jeans guy and Civic anger rose up again and I snapped that I had to go now and that I would see him in a few. I was almost there. I was cruising past the churches on that windy road and soon I would hit the light and there’s my destination. He apologized, but also mentioned that it’s something that happens frequently and I was lucky that I knew how not to total the car. His dad hit so many deer he had lost count. He hit plenty of deer. It happens, so get over it!

I couldn’t get over it. I never killed anything above an insect (pesky little things that need to be exterminated!) in the food chain. I was a killing virgin and I had always imagined that cherry would be popped on a fellow human, and I knew just the one. I also knew I was being naïve, but there was one less Bambi frolicking through the woods because of me. And the chunks were there, watching me. Judging me. I couldn’t take my eyes off of them the entire way home. He chatted about his day and I watched the chunks half hoping they would suddenly disappear.

I abandoned my previous Sam Adams idea and went to bed. I was upset and haunted by raw venison. I fell into a deep, but restless sleep and awoke the next morning feeling drained. I went about my ritual getting ready for work and went out to the car. I had him check the car for gore when I got to his workplace last night and he had assured me that there wasn’t any, but I didn’t quite believe him. I was pleasantly surprised to see that there wasn’t anything stuck in the grill or covering the hood. I was still so traumatized that I didn’t notice that all but one of the chunks were gone. And it was the biggest one that had been taunting me from its perfect view from the passenger seat last night. I avoided eye contact with it the entire ride.

The day was a dull blur and I arrived home in a still foul mood. He made attempts to relieve me of my mood, but I couldn’t shake it. I told him how I could still see the deer standing there, our eyes locked, and the feel and sound of the impact as I watched him fly over me and shower my vehicle with gore. I recounted how I drove on watching in my rearview mirror for the Civic’s headlights that never appeared.

He sympathized with me and mentioned how he had gone outside late last night, while I was asleep, and had cleaned off my car. It had been a mess, and he had had a few beers but knew I was upset and didn’t want the first thing I saw in the morning to be the mess from the night before. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t really noticed. I felt worse than the night before.

I had noticed that the bottle of cleaner and the paper towels were in an odd place that morning, but I had figured that he had spilled something. I had refused to look at the front of my car last night so I had no idea what to expect in the morning and he had said last night that there wasn’t anything there. But then I thought about it and if he had spilled something why would he use cleaner to clean it up? Especially when there’s a dog that loves nothing more than cleaning up spilled beer and chips.

He also mentioned that he hadn’t meant to be insensitive last night on the phone, but like he said everybody hits a deer sometimes. And I know he’s right. That’s what bugs me most of all is that he’s right. It happens and it sucks and I need to change the CD. I need to get off the island. I wish I could find the submarine, but at least I knew there were good people there.

My foul mood dissipated. He had gone out last night, technically early this morning, and cleaned off my car for me because he didn’t want me to be upset. Wow. I think it was the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me. Every once in awhile he does something or says something and I have to stand back and say wow. It can be frightening to be loved so much by someone that you try not to think about it often and keep your guard up, but then he goes and does something like that and your guard shatters, and all you’re left with is this exciting and at the same time frightening feeling of love 

But then moments after THE MOMENT you notice something that makes you roll your eyes and sigh the sigh of an exasperated woman. You walked into the kitchen and the counter is covered in cookie crumbs with the milk container front and center. The rim of the milk container is also covered in crumbs and the lid is missing. It’s probably in the microwave.

While you’re surveying the mess and trying to decide if you should just clean it up and get it over with or leave it there and hope he’ll do it, he follows you into the kitchen and you just can’t be mad because he gives you that look. You know the one. It’s how the bastard hooked you in the first place. The moment comes back and you want it to because if this incident is going to keep going in my mind I want it to have a happy ending because that morphs Vanilla Ice into Master of Puppets and I think I could handle being stranded on an island and only having that to listen to; especially if Jack Shephard lived there too.  

Last Updated: 4/12/12