Wednesday, March 3, 2010


CAUTION: Some sensitive readers may find the incident related in this post too disturbing. As the person who witnessed it, I remain deeply shaken.

I can sometimes embrace being single. Despite occasionally obsessing over finding a guy, I am independent by nature. Even in a relationship, I require significant time alone. And yet there are critical times in life when being on my own totally blows. I had one of those occasions today.

For the second day in a row, I got stuck behind a school bus as I headed home after doing some business in town. I can be an impatient (aggressive?) driver, but I told myself to chill. The bus would have to make several stops to let high school students out and, since passing is not permitted, I could spend the idle seconds petting the dogs.

After the first delay, the bus continued along the road as I followed. Then a deer appeared from the right side of the road in front of the bus. I know there was no time or space for the bus driver to react. And yet I hoped. I watched in horror as the animal was flattened beyond recognition. I pulled over (as did the bus) and shrieked, bawled and shook as my entire body broke out in a cold sweat. The wailing continued as my dogs frantically moved about trying to console me.

I have no doubt I was in shock. Somehow I pulled myself together enough to turn the car around—I couldn’t drive by That Spot—and returned to where I’d been in town, in desperate need to connect with another human being. I patted myself dry (no use, really) with the doggy towel I keep in the car and walked in the building. Ghostly white, hands shaking uncontrollably, tears streaming down my face, I collapsed in a chair and babbled something as people got me a glass of water and an “ice pack” to cool my body down. I remained there for half an hour, chanting “Oh, my God” incessantly until I started to feel faint. The image of what happened replayed over and over, in slow motion. (In truth, the incident, while I witnessed it, played out in slow motion.) I switched from sitting with my head between my knees and a package of frozen perogies resting on my shoulder to kneeling on the carpet, head down as if in prayer.

Finally, I got up, returned the perogies to the freezer and, still stunned, made it to the car. I worried that my dogs would be freaked from observing my hysteria, but they had resumed their naps. Oh, to be a pooch. I sat in the car and patted the dogs, calmly repeating their names as I tried to comfort myself and while waiting for my hands to shake a little less.

To be sure, what I observed would be upsetting to anybody. I just happen to be ultra sensitive when it comes to animals. As a child, I would leave the family room crying uncontrollably on Sunday evenings as a cheetah on Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom captured its prey. My parents would sit on either side of me in my bedroom as I wept, utterly inconsolable. I still cannot watch most animal documentaries. While I understand the food chain and the laws of nature, I chose not to watch as a life is taken. (I had to stop watching that penguin documentary when it was on TV a year ago, the mere mention of predatory birds creating too much tension.) I have been a vegetarian for twenty-five years. I capture and release not only spiders and moths in my house, but mosquitoes. That should provide more than enough context to explain how upsetting today’s incident has been for me.

Eventually, I drove home. There was no one there to hold me tightly, to let me break down again. There was no one I felt I could call and bawl. I changed my clothes and crawled into bed. Although one dog joined me and nestled up close to me, it wasn’t the same as having a partner to provide comfort and to let me release all the lingering trauma from the most gruesome scene I have ever witnessed.

I saw a life brutally taken in a few agonizing seconds. It pains me that I can’t change that. And I ache as I work through the experience on my own.

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