My hometown is currently overrun by deer. We call them the “city deer,” and they are mostly mamas with their babies. Skinny and starving, they eat the leaves off of my parents’ trees. They bed in the shade in the front yard. My parents have an electric fence surrounding their garden, and the other day, my father discovered that, despite the fence, some of his tomatoes had been munched, so he put some peanut butter on to tin foil and attached it to the fence.
The deer do not get shocked if they jump over the fence because they make contact while in the air. The foil is a way of luring them in. When they lick the peanut butter, they will be shocked, and once they are shocked, then they are unlikely to approach the fence again. My father thinks that , when the deer jumped the fence, they didn’t know that they could be shocked, but I think that they were desperate and jumped despite knowing that they could be shocked.
Scarcity works that way.
I wrote about Lindsay Lohan and domestic violence at The Daily Dot. The comments on the website’s Facebook post were horrifying and only reinforced my point. Multiple friends reached out to me to ask if I was okay? I wrote back that I was fine, that I had already learned the hard way how awful people can be.
Very little shocks me anymore.
When I was married to Caleb, I kept getting shocked. Just over that fence–always–was the lure of nourishment, and I was starving.
Reed tells me that his father says that he has a “real garden” now. I tell Reed that we had a garden when we were a family. “I know,” he says, “but Dad says that this is a ‘real’ garden.”
Of course our garden wasn’t real. The buckets full of tomatoes weren’t real. The jalapenos weren’t real. The bell peppers weren’t real. The freezer full of pesto wasn’t real.
None of it was real because it happened with me. How can he tell her that our garden was real when he has told her that everything else about me was not real?
His abuse was also not real, right?
Reed also tells me that his father is going to write in Bernie Sanders in the election. I roll my eyes at that. “Your father used to like Hillary. He voted for Hillary Clinton in the last primary,” I say.
Reed says, “I think that he just doesn’t want to vote for Hillary because I told him that he should, and he feels like that’s just you bossing him around.”
It’s not coming from me. I don’t care who anyone votes for. I’m over this election, but Reed is not. He spent two weeks with his CNN obsessed grandparents, and he now thinks that he knows everything about politics.
But the truth is that, when Caleb and I were married, we rarely disagreed about politics, and now I wonder how real that was. Caleb is a master chameleon. He can be what anyone wants–gardener, feminist, Hillary supporter, Bernie supporter….
What was real with him?
Was that damn garden even real?
The city deer are starving because people feed them. How is that for irony?
Deer are meant to live off of a specific diet of grasses, and people are feeding them apricots and tomatoes, which make them sick.
How many times in my own life have I grown sick from excess?
Too many to count.
When I was in San Francisco this summer, I had brunch with some friends from Boise. They are both such talented and accomplished women. I felt proud to even be keeping up with them. Still, we are all human. We all have problems. Caleb’s wedding was looming. I told them that I already know what Caleb tells his wife. I told them that I am sure that he says that she’s different from me, that she’s special, that he wishes he had only ever known her.
I told them, “I want to tell her that I was special once too. That his love for me was real. That what we had was real.”
I left him, okay? I was the one who left. The leaver. The one who walked out the door.
Still, I loved him so much that I didn’t think I would survive. Do you know how hard it is to leave someone who you love? I have never yet met someone else who had to leave a person that they loved.
So far, I carry this distinction alone.
The other day, I was walking home from my friend’s house, and I walked past a sterile ranch house. The grass was cut to buzz cut length and mostly brown. There were no flowers or trees. There was a tall wooden fence in the back that belonged to the neighbors, and that fence put off a sliver of shade. A fawn and her doe rested within that sliver of shade. I wondered why she didn’t try to find something better. I knew that there were yards nearby with gardens and trees.
But maybe she just collapsed where she ended up. Maybe she didn’t have the energy to get to a better yard.
We find our shade where we can.
My non-relationship with River Guide this summer made me realize that I’m tired of flings. I’m ready to have something real in my life. I found my shade in River Guide, but it was only a sliver, and I deserve to have more than a sliver.
I deserve to have everything that I want.
Today, Reed said, “Summer went by so quickly,” and I thought that, for me, this summer was long.
It was such a long time ago that I was sitting on the couch beside River Guide, and he put his arm around me to test my reaction. It was such a long time ago that I was sitting at a desk on a farm in Belgium willing myself to write another chapter. It was such a long time ago that I was at a sidewalk table in Brussels with a Scottish artist, and we were both drunk on Belgian beer. It was such a long time ago that I first walked into my favorite writer’s house in San Francisco and realized that it looked exactly as I would have imagined. It was such a long time ago that I saw a pod of whales surfacing in the Pacific ocean. It was such a long time ago that I was in the city swimming pool watching my best friend’s child jump off the diving board for the first time.
Time means nothing to a survivor of trauma. It is all so circular, and only other trauma survivors will fully understand what I’m getting at with that.
When I was in my twenties, I used to go backpacking with my dad. All of my close friends know about these trips. They were special to me. I had always put my father on a pedestal. He was calm and kind, and I was lucky to have him.
When I married Caleb, the backpacking trips stopped. The skiing stopped. Everything stopped. Caleb wasn’t really equipped to do that stuff, and we didn’t have the kind of relationship where I could do stuff without him.
I was miserable. Everyone already knows this.
I had a realization recently that I never would have been happy with Caleb, that even if he hadn’t abused me, I wouldn’t have been happy with him. He wants a wifey. He wants someone who wants to garden, and cook, and craft. I was never going to be that person. I am too smart. Too driven. Too ambitious.
Caleb used to tell everyone that I was going to be the successful one. He said that as though he loved my success, yet he always–without fail–physically abused me following one of my publication acceptances. Maybe his new wife won’t be abused because she won’t be more successful than him, but he’ll find something.
There’s always something.
This summer, I went backpacking with my dad and brother again, and it was the best backpacking trip that we have ever taken. Everything worked.
At our final camp in the Sawtooth Wilderness, my brother and I ran into a deer. It looked at us and hesitated. It was healthy, plump even. It stared at us for a long while before bounding off into the wilderness.
I whispered “goodbye,” to it as it left.