“Deer herds form quickly for protection from predators”
-Riverwoods Preservation Council
Back then, you would have mistaken me for a happy person. Bright, cheerful. The kind of young woman you wanted your lost-in-his-dreams-of-moneyed-youth son to marry.
You would have thought that I was healthy. That I was pretty. That I was kind.
From your living room window, in your leather armchair, you would see me running. Your eyes would perk for a moment; the pads of your fingers pressing into the calfskin chair. Maybe an erection would bloom gently.
I thought you kind. Mostly. For a neighbor. For a middle-aged man. White and forty years old. Bored of being rich. Lazy in your marriage; a dangerous demographic, for sure. But, you were fairly kind.
However, mostly, I knew that you really wanted that son of yours, Will, to marry me.
The bullet of this story isn’t that the son didn’t want to marry me. Although, he didn’t.
The bullet is that I was not a late night runner training for a charity 5k on our dark suburban streets, Mr. Meyer. I wasn’t so giving and generous, as you and your wife, Mary, thought.
Maybe you had sensed there was something strange about me, Mr. Meyer, but you named that quality “charisma” or “magic.” It was part of the reason you found me such an ideal candidate for the Meyer Christmas photo. An 8 x 10 glossy print gingered with the truly elegant status symbols of your life.
What you didn’t realize is that I had a list of people’s names. Insurance agents and lawyers and your pals at Prudence Financial. You called what you did wealth management. You called that smell on your fingers sweet. Or maybe sweetie. If it were after hours.
You didn’t know I knew how to cut a tire. How to crack a glass window without getting blood on my hands. How to stuff dirty cloth into exhaust pipes. How to crack ribs with my palms open.
Maybe if you hadn’t focused on the rosebud features of my face, but instead at my hands, you would have seen the cuts, recognized them as the marks of someone who is just learning to use a knife.
Even if, right then, on my 7pm run in September, I had turned my head, and seen through the dusk dark streets, the yellow blinking lights of your Audi . . .even if we had both stopped, just for a second, in both of our lives, and rented that vacant moment so I could call out hello and you could say the statement I always saw waiting under your mustache:
“Your dad tells me you’re working at a school now.”
A statement that required me to stop running, to turn to you and answer it because it was a question, wasn’t it? Not a statement at all. And even more, you were asking me to answer the question under that question. The one about your son. Or was there an even deeper question there too? One about you, Mr. Meyer?
And even then, in that transitory moment, as you grabbed your recycling bins and I picked up your stray milk carton. 1%. You and Mary were watching your weight. Even then, if I had told you the exact, precise, empirical truth of what me and my friends were doing out there each night, you still wouldn’t have known anything because you never listened to the underbelly of women’s words. Not at the firm. Not at Thanksgiving. Not in the bedroom. And not, on the six o’clock news.
High voices reminded you always of your own mother and consequently always just sounded good natured and sweet to you. Voices that don’t break rules.
Or maybe, you would have seen me running again, the next month, this time at 10pm. From the recessed lighting of your art gallery kitchen, you would have paused. Looked at your old Hermès watch and thought, It is a little late for her to be running.
But, the thought would pass when you saw your son’s weird drawings in those stupid gold frames Mary bought. Why did she celebrate Will like this?
A little pang of worry would have covered over the moment. So much worry in fact that when the police found me and my herd later, when our decisions were poorly reported on the six o’clock news, you would have recalled that memory only as an instance of guilt. Thinking to yourself,
Why was Will so happy? His happiness was mysterious. He was so financial stupid. Clearly. He had possibly rotted out his liver and worse! So much worse! He talked all of the time! Good God. Every single Sunday night dinner. Always about the injustices of indigenous persons. Was that what that fruitcake college was teaching him? For fuck’s sake, his great grandparents on both sides were English—actual pure blood English. Literally colonial. Tea Empire. The reason why the bank accounts had always been so full. Why couldn’t he see this? Why didn’t he know this is how we sent him to this goddamn private school? Why couldn’t Will just let indigenous persons speak for themselves?
Maybe you thought I could straighten him out. I was older. I seemed like I had my life together.
Or maybe you just wanted to feel a little bit more attractive. Mary had fallen in love with her work.
Again. All those experiments and microscopes. So many high intensity lens and she couldn’t even see you!
And then that winter, after the news broke, you saw me in the city’s good bakery—the one with the floral wallpaper, the one with the fireplace, the one that smelled like honey melting on warm bread. You saw me across the room. And, you read my face this time, not at as my face, but as a spooky blur: that slightly bizarre smile reminiscent of people from the 1960s who murdered for fame.
But, again, you would misinterpret me. I tapped my ballet flat impatiently under the table. It made a clicking sound, like that of a hoof on concrete. I was sick of the lies we were told about our kind.
So, here’s the powder propellant exploding. Here’s the bullet releasing from its cartridge:
At night, when I ran with the public school teachers and the nurses and the factory line of JaxAir and the engineers at NovoCO and the secretaries and the tax auditors and the bank vice presidents and the school bus drivers and the middle management at Prudence Financial, we ran ferociously. We ran with the taste of blood in our mouths. We ran 17% harder than our bodies told us we could. 83% was the American pay gap for gender this year and we had found a way to narrow the difference: we hunted. Despite being prey animals.
We met at the corner of Forest and Reverie. We trotted through the old hospital grounds. Swifted around the lake, found the BMWs and Mercedes and Range Rovers of the names on our lists, and crossed them off in strokes of bloody blue pens. Pens with the names of prescription drugs we never made money off of. Pens with the names of hotels we had never stayed in. Pens with the monogrammed names of people we weren’t.
We galloped up and down the museum steps, and found so many soft things to push our knives into that it almost felt fun. If it weren’t so much work to make things equal, it might have been enjoyable.
Our lungs puffed the late night breath of these, our city forests, in absolute exhaustion. Because we were all exhausted. Always. That kind of working mother exhaustion that could have killed us all. But it didn’t kill us. Not at all.
The news stations asked how we congregated. So quickly? Where? And why?
And those questions were the wrong questions. Because no one ever asked us the right questions. So, at first, we answered to the reporter in one word: protection.
But, then we pulled the cameras to our face a little longer and said:
Maybe we are sick of giving ourselves out like free cake. Maybe we are sick of having pants without pockets. Maybe we are sick of chapped hands. Maybe we are sick of spending our teaching incomes on the children we teach. Or.
Maybe we are just sick of being half deer and half women—both prey animals.
Because, maybe it isn’t about the money.
Maybe we are tired, god damn fed up, with fat white animals who look and smell exactly like you.
- This Story Is a Gun - April 25, 2018