I hit a squirrel when I was driving home from work the other day. Two of them had run out onto 83 South, like they were playing chase. I didn’t have time to react. I saw them, then heard a single thump.
My fingertips went white as I gripped the wheel. “AHHHH,” I groaned through clenched teeth.
For the briefest moment, I considered circling back, pulling off on the shoulder and scooping up whatever remained of the poor fella. I had no grand illusions of saving him, but I thought that maybe I could spare him the fate of getting eaten alive by the turkey vultures that perpetually swirled around overhead, as if the JFX was some sort of fast food joint. Highway-fil-a, (only one that doesn’t send money to organizations that discriminate against gay turkey vultures).
And if, by some chance, the little guy had already departed this world, then I planned to force myself look at what I’d done, to face the very messy consequences of my actions—a punishment, of sorts. For what, I didn’t exactly know. For driving home from work? For not swerving off the road? Maybe this is what my therapist meant when she said that I have rigid standards for myself?
When I got home from my drive, I kissed my wife Lindsay hello.
“How was your day,” she asked cheerily. I paused briefly to consider whether or not to tell her about the roadkill incident.
Just a few weeks prior, I’d been chided for “oversharing” after I’d read her a terribly sad Facebook post about a woman who’d come home to find her house burning down. The woman had attempted to get inside to rescue her dog, cat and bird, but couldn’t.
“Why did you tell me that?” Lindsay had asked after I finished reading. “Next time, don’t tell me something like that!” The corners of her mouth were turned down in an agonizing frown.
“Sorry,” I’d said meekly.
This exchange left me wondering, why had I told her? If I’d paused to think about it, I would’ve known that this was precisely the kind of information that Lindsay would opt not to hear, yet I’d found myself blabbing the unfortunate story. It was the same thing that my mother was always doing to me.
My mother loved to call me with bad news about people I hadn’t thought about for years. People I barely knew.
“Do you remember Eileen from St. Phil’s?” she’ll call and say.
“She was three years below you. Always wore her hair in a ponytail? Parents owned a bar?”
“Well, she has a brain tumor. She’s got two kids. Isn’t that awful?”
Sometimes I got the feeling that she just wanted to remind me that there were people out there who had it far worse than I did, just in case I was thinking of feeling sorry for myself, which I had been known to do from time to time.
I knew she meant well, and as if to balance out all of the misery sharing, she also regularly told me about the joys and successes of these same strangers—their book deals, their beautiful babies—stories that left me feeling just as deflated as the tragic ones, but in an entirely different way.
“My day was just fine,” I said in response to Lindsay’s question. “How was your day?”
Maybe I’d call my mom later and tell her all about Mr. Squirrel.
Gay Life November 2014