Working at the library, I have an hour lunch break I take late afternoon, often outside when the weather suits fine. I sit in the grass and eat and read and have taken to the squirrels and taken flak for it. Mangy, vicious beasts! Vile creatures, too quick and crawly wily! I break off pieces of P ‘n’ J I don’t want to eat anyway to toss just far away enough to convince curiosity and daring to indulge me.
And they do. Snatching up bread chunks, the critters stand tall with stony eyes softening no sudden moves just the subtle ones for picturing. Should I have any leftovers after my shift, I share them with the tree-skipping residents of Loring Park on my bike ride home. There, competition is fierce. I yell at the aggressive ones and encourage the reluctant, cultivating my spiraling descent into urban legend insanity: Squirrel Girl on the harrowing road to Sixty-Four Cats Lady, an empire of adoration and way creepy altruism. Squirrels and me, we have an understanding. I feed them. They look at me, and make me smile.
Significantly, my interest, my care and attention, is relatively recent—within the past year, and it’s not so much compassion as simply noticing. Lots of things live on this earth, and all things depend on each other, an interspecies needing one another. Sometimes it’s beneficial, other times destructive, and all the time though it’s easy to forget, just being aware of it, the depth of it—this all-the-time present that isn’t politics or agenda or personal, bonafide b.s.—is deliciously, devilishly affirming. Birds out of no where bring a rush of weird pleasure. I stand before trees and marvel. The tiniest things catch my eye, and I move closer. Fresh fruit, juice dripping, tastes so good. Flowers in the dirt smell so fine. All these things are breathing. Living things are living. I am one of them, and so are you.
Friday settling on the grass with a book on Canadian history, trying to circumvent future chagrin, I hear a loud crack, a two by four against the cement, a miss, then another quick connect—the skull of a breather, a friend. A squirrel was getting brained right in front me of me. A choked scream escapes me but I’m too far away. Another strike and it’s over and I’m shaking, gathering myself in a rise and approaching.
Common sense later sinks no one can corner a squirrel and start beating the death into it. Logic suggests a reason, an injury and mercy killing. But all I feel is rage and disbelief. I am reminded of Binny, run over and killed short weeks after I met him. I am reminded of my own being aware. I can’t unnotice the things that make me happy, that beg of me, stop, and stay in a moment, be here, now, you can kill time later, revisit past wounds and wonderings, project into untenable fantasies, and be your general neurotic, uncertain, fractured self. Later. Less and less.
Engaged I can’t unsee inexplicable pain, nor can I walk away. Yet I am nonconfrontational to a fault. I witness injustice, have been the victim of it variously, and keep my mouth shut. I would rather observe than participate. I interpret and dissect and on the staircase bitch fantastic—shoot my mouth clean off when there’s no risk of consequence. Altercation, resolution, closure. It’s a safe way to live, and it isn’t stupid, but it isn’t right, either.
The man has flung the body into a wall of shrubs; the ground will open up and roots pull down. He is shaken, too, caught by my faltering what did you just do. Matter of fact though flinching, he confesses, I killed a squirrel. Kids had found it, squirming from a trauma, hit by a moped or bike. I didn’t want to do it, I didn’t want to do it, it wasn’t easy, oh, god.
He touches my arm, hesitant then holding on, the way that strangers, things that live, do. I wasn’t the only witness but only I approached. Shared grief and gave my understanding. How ashamed he had looked to see me coming—but how unhinged he would have been to kill with no one questioning. Though not knowing it at the time, I didn’t confront to rail against the death of a squirrel. I confronted to acknowledge the man who had the sense and love to kill it. To empathize. To comfort. We nod our sorrow this is life and death and part apart again but feeling different.
And so. I stand up for a squirrel and its reluctant executioner. Meanwhile, Mumbai is in hell—and I had to look that up because I wasn’t sure, haven’t really paid much attention. MPR, tell me, just how dangerous is downtown? Will I die at the movies, stared down as I stare down? Outside my several windows open to one hundred degrees, sirens break the silence and somehow the heat. Someone bleeds like crazy, Emergency, save me, with your uninsured-welcome central A/C.
The battles I choose are nonsensical. I know this. They are arguably inconsequential. I know this too. But I will choose and choose—notice, acknowledge, engage—until I have no choice but to live my ideals.
You may notice some changes ’round heres, now and in the near future. Just a little housekeeping before I move at the end of August. It is the truth: I am moving to Vancouver, BC. Please get in touch if you’d like to catch up before see/telling me off one last time. I will be having some sort of open house slash Come Take My Stuff extravaganza in about a month, so think about any cool megh treasuretrash you’d like to plunder—it is yours, and if not gratis, then delightfully cheap.