Highland Park

I had just had my first hypnotherapy session. I wanted help with my focusing inabilities, because I work from home and I’m essentially my own deadline maker, which is a terrible thing for someone with high levels of anxiety. We ended up discussing layers of my past, and the cycle of abuse and traumatic insult that has dictated much of my own self-destruction. My ____, my _____s, the ____, ____, another ____, the “___”, the ____s, the this, the that, the you, and my irrepressible propensity towards servitude. It hurts, and I cry, and I feel fear and shame, and then I invite it all back in again.

I looked at myself—my young self, four years old, she was a large, goopy, coffee-tan octopus with massive holes into which magazines had been stuffed. She wore a pink bow. Her arms—handless—were soft and grabby. Her tentacles trembled. I told her it was okay, that she could rest. I put her to sleep with a blanket on the chair at the hypnotist’s house, and I think she will be safe there.

I looked at myself again—my brain chatter, my maladaptive daydreaming. He was a series of awkward triangles, defiant and narrow. Each angle was a different colored square, like those unfortunate 80’s sweat pants. He was black and transparent, except for the squares, kind of like a stippled drawing. His resolve was unclear, but it was there—bolder and hungrier than Matilda’s (the octopus wants to be called Matilda). He has a drive, and goals, but needs external moderation. He gets angry with me, and won’t let me focus. He is the opposite of Matilda—dreamy, young, unstructured, material—she wants me to be pretty, famous, popular, rich, savory, Oriental, loved. He wants me to be successful, powerful, prolific, feared. The two are, I now understand, complete opposites, competing for my attention, my energy. This imbalance has manifested itself so dysfunctionally thus far that I am lucky I have not succumbed to the tragedy once read in my palms.

After the session, I felt that all was gray-soft and dead-white, and I could see strings attached to everything: a graceful web with an invisible spider, connecting each and all. I walked slowly, calmly, staring and perceiving, but less head-driven. I simply existed, and it was lovely.

Five minutes into my drive home, I saw what at first looked like two blonde brooms dancing in the street. The cars all slowed, and I realized a pitbull was in vehement pursuit of a Chihuahua. They were running so fast, and so mechanically, like crème puppets bound by the duty of hunt and be hunted, that my brain struggled to keep up. I watched, helplessly, as they hurdled across the street into oncoming traffic. I gasped, hand on lips, fingers on steering wheel, foot on brake pedal. They were running too fast, and the cars were coming too quickly. Nobody saw them.

There was a moment where she almost made it, but she pulled back for just one second, terrorized by the onslaught of wheels. A woman’s car, a blue minivan as old as 1992 and as tired as $400, struck her. It was exactly like how they show it in the movies.

The wheel rolled slowly over her head and bounced along, a large black scrap of the car left behind next to the motionless dog. The Chihuahua, whose role in the initial canine scrap will never be known (I long to find fault in all of this), escaped, presumably unharmed. As the pitbull was hit, the Chihuahua became airborne in some bumble-grapple with the laws of physics. He should not have survived, but he did, because he vanished.

I have never openly screamed in the presence of crisis. I pulled into the center lane, threw my hazards on, and approached the dog. I think I ran, and then stopped, unsure of whether or not I should touch her. I knew the cars around us would stop, and it didn’t really matter anyway.

“Is this your dog?” I cried out to the nearest man, who had made his way into the street. He was a biker, older and tougher than sound. He didn’t answer me, but continued to approach, shell-shocked. I crouched down next to Good Girl, whose real name I’ll never know. I stroked her lightly, out of love and infantile curiosity. She was still breathing. I cooed at her, when another girl ran up to us, determined to help. I called out for one of the on-lookers to bring us some water. I called a local shelter, then another, but both were on their lunch break. I decided that we had to get her into a car and take her anyway, because by the time we got there someone would be able to help. It was then that the woman who had hit her walked up with her daughter, tear-stricken and guilty.  She didn’t say she was sorry, although she smelled sorry. Her own dog had recently been hit by a car, she offered. I forgave her silently, although my judgments mattered the least. When I announced that we should take her to the nearest vet, the dog had stopped breathing.

The biker, now crouched down next to her, had his hand on the back of her head. His Highland Park machismo was peeling off in the form of tears. He whispered things that I do not remember. The five of us—me, Girl 2, Biker, Guilty Woman, and Guilty Woman’s Daughter—all crouched down in a circle around her, and put our hands on her in Paleolithic prayer. I felt the strings from my hypnotism pulsating with the kind of grace even painters do not understand, as part of this strange dog’s death found its way under my fingernails, into my flesh, into my blood, and deeper into the plum orchard of my memory. I put my hand on the biker’s back, and held it there even though it made him tremble with discomfort. I wanted a piece of his pain, not only to alleviate his suffering but also to add to my catalogue of reason: the more I collect, the more I realize that there isn’t any to be found. Then the strings became lost in the gray of the moment, and a homeless man came up to us, attempting to help the situation by pointing at cars and mumbling, his eyes fixed on the sky. He, too, had loved a dog. He, too, had neglected the pursuit of reason, years and years ago, in some alley of some city that I fashioned with my heartbroken whimsy.

The biker moved his dog out of the street, and we followed delicately behind. He situated himself on the earth behind the sidewalk that was in front of the Hispanic grocery store. At least, it might have been a grocery store. I asked if I could get him anything. He said no, vacantly, and I should have, could have, and would have, but my car was blocking just enough of the road to frustrate the traffic. The darkness of our audience began to envelope me, and I wanted to get out of there, and then come back and stay forever.

The thing that plagues me about this hijacked afternoon is not the gruesome visual of the dog getting hit—there was so little blood on the street when we picked her up that it made me hopeful that she just might come back to life. It was not the absence of reason, because the weight of meaning was still there, something deeper and colder than any chain of logic a brain can throw together. And it was not the dissolving of my hard earned celestial strings, because those eventually came back, as they always do. What plagues me is that I respected the distance of propriety and did not give of my proximal energy. I should have hugged her, kissed her, smelled her. I should have traded my breath with hers so she could feel the glory of my own personal revelations, achieved only an hour prior. I should have hugged the biker, although he would’ve hated me for it. I should have kissed the tired ground, and thanked the spider behind it all for this miracle of pain. I did not, and I’m sorry.