deere in the headlights
by Cael Gorozidis
Content warning: This piece contains descriptions of injuries and a motorbike accident.
A name. It’s who we are. Even if we don’t know who that is. No matter how you wear it, it’s how we define one another. Like paint showering mundane objects with a different perspective and coating us in colours that we can call our own.
I wear a name on my skin, but it’s not mine. Above the nipple closest to that strange organ. The one that tricks the ears with a thunderous pulse – that alerts me when she is nearby – that flutters uncontrollably. It is where I hope she’ll stay.
She reminds me why I’m alive. To be apart is like feeling the sting from both sides of a double-bladed sword. In other words, the ink that paints our love only fades if she is not around for me to speak her name, and vice versa. I have frozen the burning of our love by giving it a name. And in the end, her name will always be a part of me. Even after death. The scar she whispered into my ear the first moment I met her shall never heal. And I hope it never does. Momentary suffering for a lifetime of happiness.
Does it make me selfish? This gift is one I keep, and for my own benefit. To win her trust. Or is it simply the least complicated way to make her smile?
I hope she likes it. Maybe I should’ve waited until after I met her parents, but I just couldn’t wait. This should welcome quite the odd conversation over dinner. I really hope she feels the same way. I don’t care what anybody else thinks, nor should I take any insult for expressing the way she makes me feel. If she doesn’t like it, I guess…Well, I guess I’ll just have to find another woman with the same name and try not to creep her out next time. Although finding your name tattooed on a stranger would creep anybody out. I hope she knows who I am.
Don’t worry about it too much. Focus on the road. It gets dangerous out here at night, and the nearest hospital would most likely be a vet for the wild animals that get mangled by trucks or even tractors. It’s their land, not mine. I should be easy on the throttle. No, it’ll be fine. I mean, motorbikes are nimbler, more tactile than cars. There’s a reason why they are called car crashes. Right?
I’m just so nervous. I hope she doesn’t mind I’ve taken the bike to come and see her parents. Presentation is the most important aspect of meeting new people. The last thing I want is for them to look down on me as a pathetic nobody who’s worth even less than this gift of self-harm. Don’t want to make that impression. Death trap. Once they see the bike, it’ll be the only two words planted in the back of their minds every time I’m in their presence, with their Wendy. If that wasn’t bad enough, there are only such limited ways to dress yourself on a motorbike, and my appearance and choice in gifts suggest that I don’t have much money. Or any, for that matter. But there is no way around that. I hope that they’ll just accept me for who I am.
Maybe something should smack me really hard in the head for what I’ve done. Instead of buying her something as simple as roses, I got another fucken tattoo. What’s the matter with me? Then again, roses are expensive. The way I see it is that a tattoo is more intimate and everlasting than some overpriced tradition – not to mention a tradition that has gotten a little too predictable – that she’ll probably just chuck away after they die. What kind of asshole would give a girl something that doesn’t last? No, my gift is eternal. Myself. It’s the only gift I can afford. Even if it does mean scarring myself. To make her smile will make it all worthwhile.
Her smile – I hope it’s still the same. It is the only reason I’d ever do something so crazy. She reminds me of who I’m supposed to be, even in the darkest of times. Does the insanity that motivates such a love to exist make me crazy, or just an extension of her? Isn’t this what love does to people? Two people losing themselves completely over each other. Well, in that case, I’ve made sure she’ll never have to remember who she is. And she’ll never have to worry about me losing track of who I am.
I can see her house now. My heart is beating way too fast. Like standing right next to a massive drum pounding so hard you mistake it for your perception of time. With vibrations that send ripples through tired eyelids and strike the soul with a barbaric clap that blocks out everything but the sense of sight. The more I think about it, the faster it goes and the harder it becomes to breathe. The harder it becomes to think. My head – is that a tractor on the road? – churns. My mind bends slightly like the road beneath me, and the house follows suit. All I know is that if this doesn’t kill me it’s going to—
• • •
Grass tickles. Tall and long, it hangs from the sky like a puppeteer’s strings, jerking my mangled body to check if I’m still alive.
Concrete pinches. It breaks my focus, cracking the eggshell that separates my brain of yolk from the harsh new world it had collided with.
Metal kisses. It is a cushion I bury my head into, saturated with the seeping liquid of conspicuous wetness that streams from the right side of my forehead.
Plastic shatters. It is a whiplashed blanket, bent, cutting the face. An unrecognisable imprint is left on the Deere – it looks bloody tired.
Harley is totalled and she’ll never walk again. That deer was strange. It isn’t dead, and its fur is green with a yellow streak on its broken side. However, its blood is black and smells like the same oil that leaks out of Harley.
Memory is blank and strange as the moon. I check the rest of this body that is apparently mine, and I find one wound that has already scarred. Near the heart. It has a name.
I must be with her. The only memory in my narrow mind bank – worth saving, apparently – that could lead me out of the mess I’ve put myself in. The last shred of my mysterious self. It gives orders and shouts at my legs to move. My body is in pain for a reason of a different kind. Like breathing after having your lungs steamrolled to the shape of flattened earth. Something tells me I’ve really done it this time.
A house reveals itself on the hills, surrounded by tall grass. My destination. In some kind of fucked-up convenience, my hand is already tucked into a ball, and I knock on the door. An unfamiliar woman opens it.
‘Hello?’ As she turns to look at me, all the bags she’s holding slip out of her hands. They hit the floor, revealing a needless excess of clothes. ‘Look what you’ve done!’ A moment of time can’t pass fast enough as she frantically picks them all up. ‘Now, may I ask for the name and business of the asshole who stands by whilst a lady picks up her clothes at this time of night?’ More time passes, but not quick enough, as she inspects the clothes on my back. ‘Tell me, who hides behind this dreary outfit and what is his business here!’
My jaw shakes, unsure of whether to vomit or not. I let my body talk instead.
She squints her eyes, getting a little close for comfort. ‘Wendy…Is that permanent?’ She traces the name with her finger, then pulls back. ‘Where are my manners? I’m Zara. And you look like roadkill. So, Roadkill,’ she adds a rasp to her voice, ‘I’m starving, and we’ve been waiting for you. May I ask what took you so long to get here?’
‘Oh.’ She touches the only visible part of my face, being careful to not cut herself on the shattered visor of my helmet. ‘No, honey, you must be mistaken – there are no deer in these parts. Must be suffering a concussion.’ Zara then fiddles with her fingers through the straps of the bags she holds. ‘Please, sit down and get comfortable. I’ll go get Wendy.’
Time doesn’t pass right around here. The more I wait, the more I close and open my eyes, wrestling against sleep’s stranglehold for dominance. Bare footsteps on floorboards are heard in a dream too real. Upon opening my eyes, for who knows how long they’d been closed, a well-dressed young man starts talking – or had been talking the whole time – and asking me rapid-fire questions in a manner that expresses that he doesn’t care to hear the answers.
‘Who are you?’ he asks most frequently. ‘My name is Giorgi. I think you need some new clothes. I’d give you mine, but they would be too small and, besides, they wouldn’t suit you anyway. Wouldn’t want you staining them. It’s almost dinner time. You were late, remember, and we are all starving.’
I think I’m speaking fluent gibberish in response, having gained the awareness of such foolishness like a sixth sense, pinpointed by the slight shake of my tired cheeks and the tremor in my tongue. Pain’s overwhelming grasp guarantees that I’m not making any sense.
I blink and I’m alone. Until an older woman made of sparkling glass emerges from the darkness behind my eyes.
‘Wendy will only be a minute.’ She seems disappointed. ‘You made her sad when you didn’t show up.’
‘There was a deer.’
‘So I’ve been told.’ She looks right through me. ‘You can call me Mrs Swarovski. Now, come on, we should start eating before the food goes bad.’
I blink again and she takes me through the house to reach the back where the kitchen and dining room are. This part of the house is only lit by candles that peek from behind the cracks of doors. They float by my dizzy gaze in large numbers, like sun-struck fingers over a river of calm but unstoppable water that rises in the peripheries.
Bursting through a door seemingly at random, the glimmer of silver on a man’s wrist overwhelms me. It clicks to the beat of my heart, measuring its very own blood pressure. The silver is part of a man who seems as though punctuality is the oxygen that gives him breath to keep on ticking.
‘You’re late.’ He frowns. ‘My daughter has been slaving all day for you to make this meal fit for a king.’
‘I’m sorry there was this—’
‘Yeah, I’ve heard the excuse.’ He grinds his teeth and I hear the sound of gears. ‘I’m Wendy’s father, but you can call me Tag. I’m only going to tolerate you because you mean something to her for some reason.’ He tactically changes his face. ‘Here she comes. Stand up. Don’t crack under pressure now – what are you doing? Stand up!’
Wendy. There she is, freckles and all. In her hands she holds a platter with a deer’s head on it. Or is it just a reflection from the cloche that encases tonight’s main course? An animal yet to be revealed as the prey. All I know is that its eyes blink with a dispersed hue of static comprehension. This deer is alive!
‘I hope you all like it. I’ve been working all day on it,’ says Wendy.
‘Remember, everyone – small bites.’ Tag deepens his breath. ‘A minute on the lips, a lifetime on the hips.’ He smiles at his daughter. ‘It’s delicious, sweetheart.’
‘Thanks, Dad.’ She turns to me with her chin tucked into her chest. ‘What do you think, John? Have you ever tried deer before?’
Memory clashes like lightning, and I remember who I am.
‘No, but I think I love you.’
Photo by Diana Parkhouse on Unsplash.