“I saw the way you were looking at him. What were you trying to do? Humiliate me in front of our friends? On our anniversary!”.
“No, of course not. I’m sorry. I wasn’t looking at him. I mean, I was but I was just talking to him. He was talking to me. We were talking. I wasn’t doing anything. I didn’t mean to do anything. Please”.
“Are you calling me a liar? Are you telling me I didn’t see what I saw? He was flirting with you and you were letting him. You were enjoying it. And everyone was watching”.
“He wasn’t flirting with me. We were talking. And no-one was paying any attention, honestly. I wasn’t . . . I’m not calling you a liar, of course I’m not. I just . . . maybe you thought things were a certain way but they weren’t, I promise. I would never . . . I love you. I was there with you. He started talking to me and I thought it was OK, it would be rude not to . . . please, I’m sorry, please”.
You started driving faster. “You’re sorry? Sorry? Do you think that even means anything Jen? If you actually loved me you would –“
“Shit, Darren, STOP!”.
The car screeched to a halt.
“What the fuck, Jen? What the actual FUCK?!”.
“There’s a deer in the road”, I said, “Just up ahead. We nearly hit it”. I took a deep, slow breath then exhaled with as much control as I could manage. It sounded wrong, uneven.
“Just up ahead. Lying in the middle of the road”.
“LYING in the middle of the road? Jesus, Jen, it’s probably already dead. You scared the shit out of me. Why do you have to do things like this?”. You let go of the steering wheel and pushed your hair back from your face with shaking hands.
“It might not be dead. It might just be hurt. We need to . . . do something”.
“Do what? Do you actually know what to do in this situation?”.
“If it’s dead, we should move it to the side of the road so no-one hits it or swerves to avoid it when there’s a car coming the other way. It could cause an accident. And if it’s not dead, I don’t know. We need to call someone or something. We can’t just drive on”.
“God, Jen, it’s not our problem. Whoever hit it in the first place obviously didn’t care enough to stop and it’s their fault it’s lying there. Why the hell should we care? And who are we going to call anyway? Who do you call about a deer that might or might not be dead? Fuck! I thought something had actually happened. Why are you like this?”.
“Something has actually happened”, I replied, my voice calmer, quieter. I didn’t want to make you angrier than I already had. “I’m going to go and check it out”.
“Fuck’s sake. OK. Let me pull the car over first. I don’t want someone to drive into the back of us just because you had to stop and look at a fucking dead animal on the road”.
“Or dying animal. Or injured animal”.
“What did you say?”,
“Nothing. I’m sorry. You’re right. Pull over first and then I’ll go and look. I’m sorry”.
You drove up onto the grass verge at the side of the road, shaking your head in that way you do when I’ve done something stupid and you can’t believe you have to put up with me. When I got out of the car, my legs were like jelly. I’d never actually seen a dead animal up close before, or a dying one. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do but the unsteadiness came more from my uncomfortable awareness of your mood than anything else. I turned on the flashlight on my phone as I walked towards the deer, needing to see but not really wanting to. I felt sick.
“Oh god, Darren, it’s not dead. It’s . . . almost dead. Oh god, it’s horrible. It’s looking at me and it knows. It knows”.
“And what now? Seriously, Jen, you can’t even walk past a butcher shop without getting all upset. What are you going to do about an almost dead deer in the middle of the fucking road in the middle of the fucking night? You better not expect me to deal with this. You always expect me to handle everything for you and I swear to god I’m not . . . “
You kept ranting but I’d stopped listening. I kneeled down beside the deer who looked so young and fragile, so broken. Its body was bent and twisted and it was bleeding from its mouth. It didn’t seem to be able to move but there was an awareness in its eyes that tugged me away from the low level fear I was feeling about what you would do when this was over. Suddenly, I felt steadier as a sense of purpose worked its way in from the edges of my mind.
“What? Were you even fucking listening to me?”
“Darren, get me the hammer from the car”.
“What the fuck are you going to do?”.
“Darren, just get me the hammer. Please”.
We didn’t speak on the drive home. I expected you to be angry or disgusted but I don’t think you were. I think you were scared. When we arrived at my house, I got out of the car and paused, savouring the moment.
“I’m done, Darren. We’re done. It’s over”.
“What? Why? You can’t do this”.
“Yes”, I said, with a smile more genuine than any I’d found in the whole year we’d been together, “I can. I really can”.
I closed the door gently, leaving the hammer lying on the seat behind me and finally, with the deer’s blood still on my hands, I walked away.