Or, how he says, “I love you”
In Winter, my father reminds me, the deer are everywhere. Brown coats like sooted cloaks against an evening white. Everywhere. Or, at least, they’re somewhere, that where, that place where they should not be. By the wayside they’ll lie nearly unnoticed, he says, and I imagine breathing stones unmovable, exhausted fawns trying to catch their breath. In the median, too, he says. And I imagine the does standing, their heads tilted, their eyes moving upwards only for a moment, long enough to survey that there’s no threat, long enough to watch me drive on by. Two or more, he says. There’ll be an entire family. Or herd. He can’t say which. He only knows that they’re always together.
In Winter, my father reminds me, the deer are everywhere. And he always says this before I leave. When my feet are still outside my boots. My oblong toes, crinkled and tucked inside grey woven wool, wrapped like a mummy, dead, or a baby, alive; either way, swaddled snug and warm. As I pull out the boot’s tongue, slip my foot inside that dark cave, smash my heel against the sole, he sort of whispers it, choked, an air of concern in his voice. Be careful, he says. Watch.
But what will I watch for, really? For the things out of place? For the scared and desolate eyes flashing florescent in high beams? The way the deer run, fearful, through snowy thicket, one after the other, pausing only once to look back. The way their hoof-prints make tracks across the road, small and large, the only remnants of their regal procession. I imagine that family, that herd. I imagine how they’ll soon grow tired, how they’ll lie upon the freshly fallen snow, little mounds of white piling on their brown bodies — the bucks, the does, the fawns.
Please understand. My father: When he implores me to watch, when he tells me they’re everywhere, it’s not really about the fawn, or the buck, or the doe. No. Before I leave, before I slip on my last boot, his concerned voice telling me once again to Watch for deer — I know what he’s really trying to say is I love you.
This piece was inspired in part by this quote, which recently flowed through my Twitter feed: