There was a deer on the side of the road. It was there, improbably, on this particular raised highway surrounded by a bustling downtown. There were no woods in sight.
The deer looked fresh and young, like it was just resting after a particularly exhausting romp in a green meadow. There were no marks or blood. An awkward angle where long neck met concrete was the only indication that a life had floated away at that very spot, twisted steam on the sunbaked pavement.
I drove past the deer for three consecutive days, wondering each time why it was still there, why no one had called the highway authorities, and why it still looked so alive and whole. Each time, I held the image on the back of my eyelids, a slowly fading daguerreotype, gently assaulting me anew whenever there was a brief lapse in the day’s punishing, incessant beat of menial thoughts. It was in this liminal space, the pause between ricocheting duties, worries, and ultimately inconsequential self-involvement that it unfurled and gracefully walked away in my mind’s eye. And on the third day, they found her.
Anna always reminded me of a deer. Fawn colored hair and eyes, all legs. When I first met her she was reading Rilke. She could dance all night. She made sure I was okay when I got too drunk. Every minute in her presence was easy, joyful, and always, always fun. Basically—and I don’t want to trivialize this quality, because it’s a rare one—she was an instant friend. To a lot of people, it seems. In hindsight, it makes sense that someone that understood suffering also carried a deep well of compassion and empathy.
Anna, you’re the deer. You didn’t belong in the river. And you’re going to unfurl behind everyone’s eyelids for the rest of their lives.