Friday, November 22, 2013


     You just hit a dog with your car. You left the house a rage, and you didn’t see the large blond animal run in front of your bumper. It was dark—past midnight—but you weren’t driving that fast. You could have stopped in time if you were paying attention.
     Your immediate reaction is to stop, pull over, take a breath. It’s late, there’s no one else coming. You have some time to figure this out.
     The question is: what do you do?
     There are a few options. For one, you can stay in the car.
     If you stay in the car, you can let the stale warm air from the heater continue to blow in your face. If you stay in the car, you can drive away. You can leave the dog there and hopefully it will get up on its own. Hopefully, someone else will find it and clean up your mess.
     But you can also get out of the car.
 If you get out of the car, it will be cold—it just snowed yesterday morning—so you’ll have to bundle up. If you get out of the car, it will be quiet. The engine will be on, the headlights will be on, illuminating what you’ve done. You might see blood matted into the fur, making it stick up like bright red wax. You might see bone poking through a leg or two, reaching for help. And maybe you’ll be sad. Maybe you’ll be upset that you could do something so horrible. But you won’t cry.    
     If you get out of the car, you’ll have to check if the dog is alive. Maybe it won’t be—you hit it pretty hard. Nothing has ever sounded so loud to you—but in this case, let’s say that it is still alive. Maybe it only has a broken limb, but it’s most likely going to be struggling, stuck to the frozen rocky concrete. Its eyes will dart around so you can see the white at the edges, like it’s trying to turn them inside out, so it doesn’t have to see what you’ve done.
     But you’re both here in this place. And it’s your fault.
     You think about all of this as you sit in the car, foot on the brake, watching the heap of fur against the yellow lines as the orange glow of your hazard lights blink on and off. On and off. You figure that there couldn’t be a more perfect analogy for you and her—the person you say that you love—than your current situation. You fucked up. You’ve hurt something—someone—and now you have decisions to make. You don’t want to hurt anyone, you want to be the good guy, but that is simply not an option. If you hurt another living thing, people are going to get upset, her family is going to be angry. How will you ever be forgiven?
     Maybe you can’t fix that. Maybe you can fix this.
     If you get out of the car, you could try to pick up the animal. You could try to not get nauseous
 as the wet fur grazes the bare skin at your jaw when you lean down and try to grasp its weight.
   If you get that far, will you try to find something to lay on your back seat before placing the animal in your car? Will red blood, purple organs, and white chunks of fat and bone stain the upholstery? Not that your car is new or clean, but still. These are things you need to think about.
   Would you drive to the vet once it’s in the car? It’s late, so you’ll have to make some phone calls. Maybe you know someone else who would know what to do, but probably not. You’ll have to drive pretty far to get to the twenty four hour animal hospital up North. Are you prepared for the drive?
   And even if you get there, lay the matted mass of mangy fur onto the cold shiny steel of the table, what do you think they will say? Is there any chance at all?
   If it lives, you will be a hero. People will think you have done this helpless animal great service, that it would have died without your help. You could tell them that you found the poor creature on the side of the road, that it was a victim of a hit and run. You won’t have to tell them that it was your fault or that it would have probably been better off if you had not entered each others’ lives at all.
   If it dies, you will tell no one. You will not cry. You will not talk about it. In all honesty, you think it’s better that way. Less people will be hurt. Either way—if you intervene or drive off—you’ll have to eventually go home. Back to the one you say you love.  

    You will have to pull into the driveway and think about it. You will spend a lot of time wondering if what you chose to do was the right thing, and you will never know for sure.
   If you go home after you hit a dog, after you decide to take it to the vet or not in your car, whether the animal lives or dies, your girlfriend will still be in the house you fled from earlier.
   If you go inside, she may still be awake, locked in the bathroom and probably crying on the cold, dusty linoleum. Her eyes might be swollen and red. Her dark hair could be dirty from running her hands through it; strands of it sticking to her wet face. She will probably want to talk. She will probably want to know if she could have done things differently to make you change your mind.
   You will think about this too, but only for a few seconds. What you will mostly think about is if you really want to get out of the car.

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