One theme. One poet. One memoirist.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Stories I Tell Myself

Our friend Mark contributed this for our "fate" theme.

The Stories I Tell Myself

Just the other day, while running, I saw a cardinal. I knew it was a cardinal; that red is unmistakable. That red is brighter than a fire engine. The kind of red that reminds you of lip stick, Corvettes, China. It all happened so fast. I was running and then there it was, on the sidewalk, one wing outspread. Then I saw its head, haphazardly displaced a few feet away. Like a discarded clown nose after a birthday party. Absurd and horrifying. I winced, of course. I wince every time. Squirrels, deer, even raccoons. Snakes make me jump. I told myself a story. Dead on impact; the usual lines. But questions remain. Like, "How did its head get separated from its body like that?" and "Is red more beautiful now than before?" Lately, falling asleep has been easier. I count backwards from a thousand. I don't say "nine hundred and ninety-nine." I say "nine ninety-nine, nine ninety-eight, nine ninety seven..." Either it works or I get distracted and start telling myself a story. No matter the story, sleep is the ending. I drive a lot for my job. Close to five-hundred miles a week. I complain sometimes but driving is my practice. I see and think in relative motion. I try my best to avoid phone calls and I only text when the parking break is on. One must follow the rules. I listen to radio news. I gather facts. I look at clouds. I get irritated by teenagers. I turn my head for boys in Audis but that's a different story. My job takes me to the outskirts. It's where I grew up. A little bit country, a little bit suburbia. Country clubs. Hidden driveways. Lots of yellow signs. Some public, some private. Some depicting jumping deer. Like I said, I wince. I've seen roadkill before. Who hasn't? But I didn't see her at first. No, she "came out of nowhere" as the saying defends. I became fixated on her gleaming white tail. It all happened so fast. Fast and hard towards the silver SUV which I'd graciously let pass before turning into its wake. It was a 55mph zone. The driver - I saw the her hair in profile - was easily approaching 70. I tried not to judge. I've replayed this sequence hundreds of times. Images in motion stay in motion. It all happened so fast. It was absurd; a cartoon crash and flip. She landed in the ditch. She tried to stand up, to run away. She couldn't. God only knows the damage inside. Broken bones. Internal bleeding. I drove past the stopped SUV; the driver inside held her head in her hands. My window was cracked. I felt a breeze, heard birds singing. I glanced into the rear view mirror. Her body writhed but her head stayed steady. Poise, I thought. I started to cry. I was running late. What could I do? Two days later, I told my therapist I was afraid of dying alone. It was a bullshit line. I won't die alone. No matter the circumstance, I know that truth. What I should have said was that I am afraid of dying in fear. I went back. I had to. The SUV was gone. So was the doe. Just a tuft of white in the grass. I imagined a gun. I imagined irises. I don't know what you tell yourself at night. I won't ask. I've come this far. I know a thing or two. I know that we're all headed towards something. They say the sun is a star. Like all stories, there's a beginning, middle, and an end. And I am comforted.

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