“A little early for you to call…I’m scared to ask, are you drunk?” She said.
“First of all time is a human construct, secondly it’s got to be happy hour somewhere, and lastly no I’m not.”
I lack the grace to remain kind in cruel situations. When I was five there was a lizard collapsed on the walkway of our front porch. A tiny, wounded, almost lifeless thing with black spots across its back that didn’t dart or scatter away as the other lizards usually would. I knelt down to take a closer look and saw something wet was beginning to dry on the pavement right below it, the small, spotted sides expanding and contracting the closer my body came as I waved the flies away. Two large and helpless eyes staring back at me, desperate and panicked, a strange green liquid that seemed to leak from everywhere around it.
“I don’t believe you, but hi.”
“Hi! Thanks for not asking how my weekend was. Fucking annoying, when people ask questions that don’t really mean anything and it’s just filler when they can’t think of anything to say. You know what I mean?”
I felt sad watching it, and while I don’t think I understood exactly what was happening, I had an idea. As far as an idea can go. Pain is something we can identify, even at an early age, but can only ever understand within the context of ourselves. Through experience. How often do we disregard the warnings of our parents and predecessors because, well, fuck them, and what the hell do they know?-aside from more than us. And fire is hot, sure, but how well is that really known until you burn your finger and it stings for hours no matter how long you run cold water on it? There is empathy, I guess. Being sensitive to the aches and torment of someone other than yourself requires an incredible and noble kind of intelligence. But…just how far does empathy really go, or matter? I imagine it means little, that beautiful understanding, to the sheep and lambs put out to slaughter, bleeding to death or eaten alive.
“…you don’t, but that’s fine.” I said, after silence was my only answer. “Anyway how’s your father doing?” .
My mother called from the car, and thoughtlessly I stood and ran towards her. I sat in the backseat staring into the walkway where the flies grew brave and began to cover around a very specific spot. Two crows came down to the very place I was kneeling, and as the car drove off, all I could see was their violent pecking at the pavement with their long, black, terrible beaks. What I could have done for him, the only thing I think could have eased the pain and suffering of that lizard, still haunts me.
“He died last week,” She said.