Last night we worked until about 11:00 and then I said goodnight and stepped out onto the street with my bag over my shoulder, feeling all at once like the advertising/marketing version of Kwai Chang Caine, on my own, pointing my feet deliberately and thoughtfully down the street, down the hill, a poor stranger moving through this valley of wealth and comfort. Now, granted, I was walking not quite a mile to the Fireplace Room at the Brick Path B&B, so the comparison to the peripatetic Caine is a shallow one. But suffice it to say that I descended this hill with my mind engaged in questions like those Caine might have pondered in a troubled or a weak moment—Who am I? Why am I here? Is this path the right one? If I cannot find happiness in this moment, why should I expect it of the future? Did I truly earn my day rate?
I was brought back into the moment by a sudden commotion in the yard to my right—a rustling, a sound like someone kicking a recycling bin. The sidewalk and houses were dark on this stretch of Marin Ave. The only light came from the pulses of traffic that thundered by on my left. I continued forward. A flash of motion to my right—was that a, a deer? It looked like a deer leaping the hedge between the yards. Then, in front of me, his calmer partner trotted onto the sidewalk, gave me a sidelong glance and, not too worried by what she saw, turned tail and preceded me down the street at an easy walk.
We went along together like this for something longer than a moment and then she turned into the next yard and disappeared as if she’d never been.
It is always thrilling to see a big animal. I’m sure there must be a reason for the charge it gives, something deep inside us, perhaps an ancient instinct that prepares you to either defend or dine. But these deer had shown no serious sign of aggression and as for me, I was full of Tikka Masala the delivery man had brought to my friend’s house. Perhaps then the deer were some sort of sign, meant to show the fairness of my path. Had I not come here for this job, had we not decided to work into the evening, had the delivery man not gotten hopelessly lost and arrived half an hour late, I would not have been here to see these animals. But imagining these deer were a sign meant to show something presupposes a supernatural being with the ability to control deer and the desire to show me something. I don’t imagine God has that kind of time on his hands.
No these were just deer, trying to eat without being hit by a car. It’s tempting to look for a larger lesson about life there, but sometime a deer is just a deer. What I got out of the moment was almost entirely up to me.
Well, if nothing else, they got me out of my head and I was able again to breathe the night air, smell the faint licorice smell that seemed infused in it, and basically enjoy the last little bit of my walk down to my little cottage room. Here, it has to be said, in case the reader is tempted to swap a David Carradine metaphor in for Kwai Chang, there is no closet, only an armoire, and anyway I went straight to bed.