I saw the deer first. A buck, whose head appeared through my car window on the passenger side. I was commuting to work, pre-dawn as usual to make a 5:55 AM bus. The drive takes me an hour, and it is relatively easy, listening to music from my iPod, and flicking back and forth between high and low beams if there are other cars present. Often few cars are present for the first half going my way, until I pick out a distant pair of tail lights, but there a few cars in small bursts headed the other way.
I live in Provincetown, and work twice a week in Boston. This fall and spring, I have early morning classes, and there are really only two buses that can get me there from mid-Cape– one that leaves at 5:40, and the 5:55. I get up at four, and shower, feed the cats, and grab coffee to be behind the wheel by 4:45. It can be exhilarating, toting my thermos and bag, having work I like.
My music is a mix of Bollywood and European pop, with strains of other genres. That morning started with “Am I Blue” by Grant Green, and covered Carla Bruni and Jai Ho. By the time the two lane highway gave way to a divided highway and a lower speed limit, my mother’s favorite chant was on, a hymn to Lakshmi. It was still dark, and the moon dipped in the clouds. My mother plays this song every morning and evening, to welcome and bid adieu to the sun. I remember thinking it odd to listen to this song, randomly selected by my iPod, at this hour, and I remember thinking there must be a reason. I did not dwell on it. I felt peaceful and alert.
The buck appeared and looked at me and I looked at it, and the chant played and I began to scream because something was very, very wrong. The brown hide of the buck was in front of my car, my car was hitting the buck, and then the buck disappeared and I took a breath but the buck came back and I began to scream again. All my CDs in a tote bag, my bag, all slid from the passenger seat to the floor with the impact. I must have clung to the steering wheel, and perhaps my seatbelt locked me in. I kept screaming, for the horror, the deer, the randomness of the violence.
I kept driving and called 911 when I reached the bus. I was told, I was lucky the deer didn’t go through the windshield. I was told, This is the time they are everywhere. I was told, it must have scared you, huh? I am. They are. I was.
I had an hour and half on the bus. The first part I just sat, and at some point my cheeks wet , and i could not bear to look at merging traffic. We passed a pond where two ducks were plunging tail up for food, but I could not take simple pleasure; I no longer felt innocent. I felt awful. Had I been placed on this earth to kill a deer? In Indian mythology, deaths sometime occur because it was so predicted long ago. A man kills a mating deer, and is cursed by the deer who was really a sage in disguise, to be killed during love-making. The king refuses to make love to his wives so the wives mate with the gods to produce the Pandavas, heroes of the Mahabharata. When the king breaks down and finally makes love to one of his wives, he dies.
I retell this myth largely because I love stories. I do not know if I killed the buck. It most likely bounded away. This is what I hope. We were both so startled. I know we looked at each other in the eye. It happened so quickly. I think how I could have prevented it, if I had started later or earlier, if something, anything, to change the circumstances. These are the circumstances, though, and I don’t know what other outcome could have occurred, and in not knowing, I have to accept what happened.
Indira, I’m in shock with you. So awful, and yet there’s deep beauty in your facing it and writing of it. And the not knowing.
Thanks, Gail. I am also thinking how quickly–too quickly–we “recover” from accidents though I will find out when i am next on the road at that time. Today I flew to NJ and realized how much I love flying in planes– my favorite transport.
The deer are startling. I have hit one and it leaped out of nowhere, still light, but I didn’t have time to brake. I know I hit the deer’s hip and she quickly leaped into the nearby bushes by the side of the road. The Wildlife officer who came said the blow probably broke her hip and she’ll run off into the wild and probably die from it. I felt awful for so long. To kill a beautiful animal, even not meaning to. It was crushing. Your story with its built-in surprise brought it all back to me.
Dana, it is an awful thing– crushing as you say. To feel so bad, so responsible.
Wow, Indira. That’s an amazing experience. And you tell it beautifully. I could feel it.
Thanks, Rachel. Did not know if I should write it. There is an Ojibe prayer I found online about taking a deer’s life:”I had need of you.”