The hunters would be drunk and careless, stumbling around the grounds in the bourbon softened haze that would blind poorer men. Their blurry vision would alight on anything that looked remotely like antlers and they would shoot. They had bullets to spare and the guns made them feel like men. Or perhaps these men couldn’t see at all. There were no consequences in this vague subtext laden land.
I hoped by risking my life I was proving its value somehow. The world was a cage in which mammal and gladiator proved their worth by fighting to the death while audiences cheered. I was tapping into a tradition of anxious masculinity here. There was a methodology to it. I was validating my existence in the world by removing myself from the equation. It would be a badge of honor, to stare into the infinite abyss, reach out and touch my own mortality, become one of the select and stupid few that tried to slap life in her impenetrable face.
This was what a panic attack felt like. I fumbled for my Xanax and I knew I wasn’t going to die. I wouldn’t have brought the Xanax if I was. I’ll be seventeen next week. The Xanax will kick in in fifteen minutes.
My mother will cry over the kitchen counter. My father will grieve with blank eyes while watching TV. I have to take my SATs next week. I have to go to college next year, get a job after that. Succeed. But for now, all I knew was I wasn’t going to die. Not today. Maybe never.
I threw the antlers in a dumpster when I trudged home. I cried furious cathartic tears while I watched Bambi and I hugged my knees but felt so alone it was like knives in my chest but my mother would be home in an hour and I would hide the antlers and ask if I could see Dr. Rosen again to change my medication so I could find a way to be happy as a human or as a mammal or maybe a member of the audience (like my dad) in this overwhelming version of the world I see filtered through my lens of past experiences and influences and whatnot. Through all this my old heart ticked away in the background. I had never been in any danger. Hunting season was over.
Shira Feder is a loner with more books than friends, more friends than pets and no pets whatsoever. In her spare time she paints pretentious color studies.