It looked like a wolf had bounded across the road. I blinked and thought, “Mind’s playing tricks on me.” Everything looks like a wolf at 3AM. That hour’s reddish-black darkness had bewitched me, and I wobbled on the road for a bare instant, wondering if I should go back and check. Maybe it was a dog, and the owner would wonder where it was, or vice versa. In my rearview mirror, I watched it criss cross the highway again and kept on, relieved, then not, as I wondered if it’d be lucky to escape the car’s wheels next time. But my conviction drove me onward, and I had miles to go.
Truth? The middle of the night rips me open, and I often wake with a start, thinking I’m about to fade away.
Frozen, heart slowing until each beat may be its last, and I wait, lying there, to see if I might die any minute. Other times, I get up and shake off the cloak of sleep to remind myself that I’m still here, I’m not immobile, not dying.
This night, I needed to move. Something was wrong, I knew it. I wrote a letter, patted the paper onto the kitchen counter, and made my way to the car. A few minutes later, I saw the wolf. But like I said, I kept on. We couldn’t both die. What would be the sense in that? And so when I entered the hospital, I thought maybe things would be OK, I’d get checked out, be on my way in an hour’s time. They shuffled me in fast enough, and I waited in the ER’s exam room, dry heaving at the fog of someone else’s blood that’d descended over everything. I’m not always sure that I believe in ghosts, but something happened in that room, and sure enough, the forgotten smears of blood and matted hair on the floor made it real. The stains screamed at me to remember, to witness, to record the imprint of the person who’d made them.
Do you know when you make a realization or are about to, but hold yourself back, because you’re afraid where it may lead? Like if you acknowledge what you need to learn, then A won’t equal B anymore and you have to come up with a C or an L, and that doesn’t compute and you don’t think you’ll know what to do next?
There’s comfort in doing things as you always have, because at least you know what comes after. And you think you have too much at stake to strike out anew in any way, because it’s not a guaranteed outcome? Not that anything ever is, but do you know what I mean?
Mental pathways are tricky things. To untrench them is scary and like death. You’re killing a bit of yourself and your only hope is that something good grows in its rancid soil.
Death hovered around me that night. Death, and sickness, and all the things in my head come to life. It walked next to me, yelled in my ear, barreled into my nose, seeped into my eyes, it touched everywhere, anywhere. I sat through the assault, knowing that as long as I saw it, endured its obvious blows, it wouldn’t creep up on me.
Three hours later, I folded my release form, and stuck it somewhere, I don’t know. It’s not important because it was over, once again, over, until it would happen again. By this time, the black outside had softened, ending the night. For now. I drove home to the note, the approaching light, the realization. And somewhere in the canyons that whizzed by, a wolf waited.