I’m coming home from a cold meds run to Walgreens. It’s dark. It’s winter. Most sane people are in their homes. I’m tooling down Matson in my shitty minivan when the fog clears and there you are. Fucking 12 point buck. I know people in Alabama who would shit their pants if they saw you. You look like a special effects version of a buck, like you were painted by Thomas Kinkade on a plate. You are perfect.
20 yards back, I just roll to a stop, and stare. I’ve been dealing with sick kids and a busy wife for two days. My house is hip deep in wadded-up tissues and there’s a faint reek of eucalyptus, like we use it for an air freshener. My kids are piled onto the couch against my wife like snot-crusted bookends. They’re watching terrible television and coughing without putting their hands in front of their mouth. They can barely speak, they cry a little every time they hack one up.
And I’m no worse, I’m a solid peelable crust from head to foot. I haven’t showered for two Tuesdays and every time I breathe in I can feel the exact shape and size of my lungs, as if two smoldering loafs are catching fire in my chest. I have the window down because February air in Chicago is like a gust of knives slicing under my hoodie and raking down my back and it feels freaking awesome on my fever skin.
But I stop. I take you in. You’re standing there under the lonely streetlamp by the forest preserve, right in the broad halogen halo, just looking at me. You are archetype. You are unhurried. You are unafraid. You own that fucking road. Yet, I feel like I’ve seen you before. Like we know each other. The feeling is so sudden and so crisp; I rack my memory for some other time in my 10 years living by the forest preserve golf course in Chicago when I’ve had a run in with a buck like you but I get nothing. You drop your head, sniff at the asphalt. Your ears twitch. Your tail twitches. Then you lift your head into the classic hunt club silhouette. Perfectly still. I open my door as quietly as I can. You turn toward me and the sense of familiarity is overwhelming.
And what is this thing that’s happening? I believe in symbols, like we’re avatars in a great universal video game and moments like these are Easter eggs. We are given high-level instruction at these peak moments, instances soaked in synchronicity and groaning under the weight of symbolism. Why a deer? Why a 12 point buck? Now, when I’m racing home to administer bubble gum flavored acetaminophen to my broodlings? Why the overwhelming sense of fraternity? Like the buck is my wild self, torn loose and freed the instant my first born slipped out into the light. Now come back to judge me, to harangue me, to remind me that we are still brothers, that there is still a wild child waiting to tear it up somewhere inside me.
I take one step toward you just as headlights come around the far corner and you charge, nearly running into me, leap high over the fence into the narrow space between the gold course pump house and the containing pond. No sound at all, I swear.
The car comes barreling past me, kids on a drunk. Someone yells, “asshat!” and I remember: You look exactly like the fucking deer in the old Hartford Insurance commercials.
Writer: Bull Garlington
Location: Mason & Matson Avenue