In all of my work, I am driven by the world around me, and the colors that I choose come from things I see on a daily basis. The inspiration for this painting came from a story I recently wrote involving the connection between […]
Issue: October 2013
When we think adventure, we think pirate ships, sinister jungles, or foreign cities. We think, quite simply, of going new places and seeing remarkable things. But an adventure doesn’t have to mean a glamorous journey. Disappearing into the world of a novel or appreciating the […]
What am I doing? I look like an idiot in my fresh running gear and clean shoes. My running pants are too tight and my jacket looks too fashionable. My hat and gloves feel amateur and I know I shouldn’t run to music, but let the nature be my soundtrack. Standing on a path I’ve only ever driven past, I feel like an idiot. I press forward trying to ignore the absence of my father, who admittedly kept me going before. iPod in hand, I hit play on the playlist I’ve made, letting my body and my thoughts fall in line with the music. The path takes me behind my house deep into my neighborhood. I pass homes that mimic mine, noting briefly what makes them unique and not my own.
The cold cuts against my face, chilling my nose until I can’t feel it anymore. I look to the sun, hoping for its touch on my nose and cheeks. The cold turns to sweat on my skin, which turns to heat within my jacket and shoes. My nose is running and it’s almost as though every fiber in me is trying to leave my body until I’ve promised to stop this madness.
My body wants me to stop.
My arms want me to stop.
My legs want me to stop.
I want to stop.
I turn down a path and run over a small wooden bridge that leads into a more wooded part of the neighborhood. I love the trees that hug the limits of my town. They give us color. As I run, I feel my chest tightening and twisting in ways that are so foreign. I can’t tell if these feelings of discomfort are supposed to happen, or at what intensity I am supposed to be aware of them. I can hear my own disgusting breathing over my music, which causes great embarrassment for me as seasoned runners pass me by on the paths. I hold on to the thought of my reward at home, an omelet prepared fresh with toast and grapefruit. Even so, the desire to stop and lay down like a disagreeable old dog is starting to overwhelm me.
I want to stop.
My body wants me to stop.
It hasn’t ever moved like this before. My chest is shocked; my lungs have never needed to expand like this. My muscles are screaming; they’d rather be in bed. My legs are stopping, my arms and shoulders are stiff, and my back is closing. My head is low and the rest of me feels betrayed. I try to pull myself further down the path that is now winding me around the pond into which I used to throw our koi fish when they got too big. Something to the left catches my eye. It moves rapidly behind me nearly knocking me over. I slow and steady myself. I slow and steady my nerves. I’m easily spooked, like a horse at night.
I yank my earphones out of my ears and turn to see what just nearly collided with me. I look through the trees, unsure of what I’m looking for. A person? An animal? I see the legs first, followed by the thin body and finally the frightened and reserved face. A doe stands watching, considering me. I’ve seen deer, the occasional buck, but always deer. I see them running through my backyard, taunting neighborhood dogs as they gallop past their fences freely, and I see them sometimes slain in fields or against roads. They nibble grass and steal from my mother’s vegetable garden. They leave perfect prints in the snow, and stroll in between the trees at a safe distance. I always see deer.
This deer in this moment on this cold January morning is seeing me. One of those people who had infested the land of her kind, forcing her to navigate the old familiar space timorously.
Her round dark eyes glare back at mine.
She is afraid, deeply so. She is nervous and unsure of what her fate will be if she continues this staring game with me. Neither of us moves. Neither of us looks away. I want to say, I’m not going to hurt you. It’s okay. But what would that do? I have nothing for her. I want nothing from her. She wants something from me. In her eyes, I can tell. She wants understanding, reassurance, and ease.
She is looking at me. Really regarding me, trying to discern what I am and whether she can, dare I say it, trust me. She is beautiful. I stand where I had stopped, where she had interrupted me. I don’t want to move for fear she will run away, calling me “another one of those humans.” I am compelled to earn her trust. I know what it is like to feel like a guest in my own home—if I could compare what a deer in suburbia feels like to anything. If she steps closer, like I feel she wants to, then I’d know this running charade would not have been a waste of time. I stare back at the deer, pleading with her to give me this sign.
She’s like any other deer I’ve seen before. I’m like any other human she’s seen before. Only, we are both standing here. I can see her chest heaving and she can see my breath flowing. Her dark round eyes are engraving me with serenity and I would like to think I’m putting her at ease. I do not wish to harm her and I know she does not have ill intensions for me. Something moves between us and I’m letting it be her call. Finally, she takes a small earnest step back, as do I.
When I step back I still regard her, holding her attention. When she steps back she still sees me, keeping her guard as high as it will go. Her head bows and I know this is it, she’s decided all she can about me. She turns her head and takes off further into what is left of her woods. I stare after her, wondering first why she stood there as she did, and next, why the hell did I? I always see deer. She wasn’t special. She fades until I can barely make out the sound of her small feet cracking twigs and stamping on leaves, and I see in her wake what I hadn’t seen in my own.
She was trying to claim her woods and I was trying to get her to trust me. She had been trying to stand her ground against a threat and I had been trying to challenge her to accept me. I didn’t need her trust; I needed her affection. I needed her message. I always see deer, but they don’t always see us. They don’t really see us. How I must look running, something they do for reasons I’ll never ever comprehend. They run for warmth, they run for safety, they run for travel, and they run because they can.
She didn’t stop because I startled her. She stopped because I enticed her. When two beings who can’t speak encounter one another, they speak through the eyes. She was asking who I was and I was asking her to trust me. I already failed her with my lack of consideration. As I put my earphones back in I took in a breath and resumed, grateful for the interruption. Grateful for the moment to stop and consider another being that also had some questions for me. I always see deer, and I always drive past this pond, and I always look at these houses that mimic mine, and I always think I should go running, but I never do. It’s when we stop doing what we always do that the ordinary shows us why it’s more than commonplace. That deer, admittedly no different than any other deer, found something in me. A connection.
Photograph by Emily Klein
Watch smoke pour from mouths
open to morning air, infused with the essence
of garbage-men, of gyrating hips,
the wax flavor of lipstick.
Watch wine run from noses, red like
roses offered to forbidden loves.
I am born from this, from urine
and beer mixing in gutters like serpents
I fall to earth, hit the ground
face-first, and nothing pours from my head but dirt.