The Other Night, on a Run, I Saw a Dying
by Natalie Beisner
– raccoon and thought of you, how you lay in the hospital bed, breathing so heavy, hooked up to that machine, and the raccoon breathed the same way, so if I closed my eyes I would’ve thought it was human, I would’ve thought it was you, and I didn’t know what to do because it was late on a Saturday in the middle of a pandemic, and animal control was closed, so I called sanitation, where a voice matter-of-factly informed me the animal had to be dead before they could do anything. The animal had to be dead. I thought about killing it, but I don’t know anything about killing things, I only know about watching them die, so I sat on the side of the road and watched because I didn’t know what else to do, and I thought of you, how at the end I bought you that Christmas card and underlined all the important words, just like you taught me, just like you always used to do for me, and you never got to read it, although I think I read it to you, but it wasn’t the same because my voice cracked, and I wasn’t able to emphasize the underlined words, the ones I needed you to hear, and we weren’t sure if you were able to hear at all – or how much you were able to process, I mean – and anyway, I don’t remember now, but I do remember you lying there, looking at me, and it felt like you wanted to say something, but you couldn’t talk because of the machine, and I remember your eyes, which I think said I’m afraid, and my voice was no good, so I tried to make my eyes say loving things back, but I think they just said So am I, because you were my best friend, and I remember you called out sometimes that you wanted to go home, which is something you were never going to do again, but we didn’t know that yet, we still had hope, and other times when you called for water, mom would dip a little pink hydration sucker into a styrofoam cup of water and then into your mouth with such reverence, and I remember the sucker looked liked candy, which made me think of you as a child, and I always hate when I think of people as children because I worry the kid you were would be sad or scared or disappointed in everything that ends up happening, and sometimes I think about my mother and my father when they were kids, long before I met them, and I agonize over whether they’re happy, and right now I wonder Are you out there somewhere? Is the little girl who you were out there somewhere, is she happy, did you end up happy? That’s all I want to know. That, and I wish I could introduce you to all the important people in my life because every once in a while, I meet someone and think This one is really special, and then I wish she were here to meet them; I wish you were here to meet them because I don’t know how I can love two people so much and never have them meet, it’s like having just the outline of a puzzle when the pieces in between are missing, but I guess that makes me the pieces in between that connect you to all the important people in my world, except I don’t know how to do that because I’m sitting here along the edge of the road beside a dying raccoon who reminds me of you, and I mean that in the nicest way, and what I mean is I miss you so much. Sometimes I have to remind myself that, in this lifetime, I will never ever see you again, sometimes it feels like maybe you’ve gone away for a long while but you’re coming back, and then I have to think She is dead – she is never coming back just to jolt myself back to reality, which takes my breath away because I thought you were phenomenal, but I know you lived a life before I met you, and I’ve heard maybe you weren’t as phenomenal once, which is hard for me to imagine, but I worry that maybe that’s the part of your life you feel the most because it’s the heaviest, and I hope that’s not the case but I guess I’ll never know, just like I didn’t know what you were saying at the end because of the machine, or if you had anything to say at all, but I’ll bet you did, and I certainly still have so much, like Life is too hard without you, and I’m glad (for your sake) you’re not on Earth right now, but I wish (for my sake) I could be off wherever you are, but I remember you telling me to hang on, Sloopy, except I thought for the longest time it was Snoopy, and that’s what I’m trying to do – hang on, I mean – but I don’t have very many important people in my life anymore, people I wish I could introduce you to, which is good because they’re not missing out on you, although I guess technically they still are, they’re just also missing out on me, but that’s the way they must’ve wanted it, I guess, or they wouldn’t have left, but when people choose to leave I never have to remind myself that they’re gone for good, not like I have to do with you and the little girl you were, who I bet was phenomenal, though I can’t know, but whatever she was, I hope she’s happy with how everything turned out, even the part at the end, but maybe she doesn’t know anything about it, maybe she’s already gone. She’s gone, I thought as I dialed sanitation once more.
Natalie Beisner is a Los Angeles-based writer and storyteller. Her work has been featured in ArtAscent, VISIO, The Dead Magpie, and antonym and has been recognized by Gulf Stream Literary Magazine, WOW! Women On Writing and Kaleidoscope – Reflections on Women’s Journeys. You can read more creative nonfiction and a bit of short fiction on Natalie’s blog at www.thisisnotalie.com or follow her on Instagram at @nataliejeanbeisner to hear about upcoming storytelling shows.