Every so often a yellow car passes by my window on its way to its home, which is farther down the street than mine. It announces its presence with a dandelion-colored flash by the corner of my left eye, then humbly treads on, pattering its tires upon the uneven stones of the mountain road. When it passes, I’ve resigned to locking my eyes upon its delightful hull, matching its trajectory with my gaze, and reflecting on a friend not too long gone from my cyclically fading memory. See, she owns a car of this precise make, model, and color, and I can’t help but feel my heart skip a beat in the moment I believe it may be her, arriving to reconcile after a bleak hiatus. She’s a contradictory figure frequently undermined by her own decisions, a long-proclaimed lesbian that’s been dating a man for the past month, whom gossipers would label a liar, whereas I’d simply call her confused. A particular vanilla-lavender scent always accompanied her, signifying the homely demeanor offered many a friend. To miss her would likely be a lie, for I miss not who she is, but who she was, and now see few ways I could replicate the trials of yesteryear joyfully endured with her.
The yellow prefers a mellow pace, mostly at day, mostly without snow, mostly without a shred of chaos, but my mountainside neighborhood begs to differ. Deer often graze in the grass during the winter, when bears are gone and the coast is clear. In these months, they essentially rule the road with the ranks of their herd. As one may have guessed, these two vessels met on a rare snowy day that witnessed the yellow car. Once it arrived at the top of the hill preceding my house, it delicately made its way down the slope, civilly stopping once it arrived at the deer. Thus arrived a frozen moment between the car and the herd: the middle-aged woman driving the car, lips pursed, miffed at the roadblock of the deer but unwilling to express her annoyance through the gas pedal: the deer, most notable among them the eternally recognizable one-antlered deer, distinguished not only for his clear physical differences, but for his erratic behavior: me, a simple observer from my glass-guarded perch.
A deer with one antler is perhaps the animal kingdom’s greatest illustration of the old adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Less majestically antlered deer announce a grand battle scar upon the most maximalist, and masculine, feature a buck has to offer. Losing an antler is an aesthetic tragedy, and an infringement upon symmetry so coveted by the two human eyes. Most often, deer with one antler are in an interim stage: annual shedding means both antlers must drop, and this is seldom simultaneous. But for our one-antlered deer, it is a clear injury: calling the deer one-antlered is actually inaccurate, for one antler is fully developed, but the second just a spike; hunters might call him a cull deer. However, the one-and-an-eighth-antlered deer is much too verbose, so the one-antlered deer is the name I provide. The one-antlered deer is perpetually stuck in an emasculating phase of lopsidedness, with one side regaling the viewer, and the other drawing comparisons to a deformed rhinoceros tusk. Therefore, it makes absolute sense that the one-antlered deer is equal parts skittish and aggressive, a bipolar mess of a mammal; it’s been robbed of its masculinity by the unforgiving trials of the mountain taiga, or as I gloomily hypothesize, the selfish actions of man.
Deers and cars have a strained relationship. Their frequent collisions witness the vaporizations of windshields, ribcages, and lives alike. I, as a driver, once spotted a deer in my headlights. I was returning home at night, music blaring, not yet over the speed limit but quickly accelerating to do so as a result of the adrenaline rush injected through the gas pedal. The deer warning signs had always dotted the road home, but I elected to ignore them, given the hundreds of times I’d traversed the road unscathed. Thus, in a fateful moment, a deer leaped over the guardrail, began galloping across the road, right in the path of the car. My foot instinctively floored the brake pedal, halving my speed in mere seconds before a thought could even register, lurching my chest forward and straining my taut arms. The deer passed, and I settled upon the gas again, returning to my original speed quickly. About 700 feet later, the magnitude of my encounter landed upon me, and I exhaled immensely, thankful that I was driving the 2016 Volkswagen and not the 2006 Land Rover.
The most expansive windows I look through are those of the car. It’s a necessity, for driving is the day’s most dangerous drudgery, and visibility certainly increases safety. The most beautiful sight one can witness out of the peripheral windows of the car is the symbiosis of snowfall and streetlamps. When one can bear to glance upward amidst the jeopardy of a snow-clogged highway, the streetlamps cast immortal light amongst the vacuous night sky, with each bright ray reflecting off each crystal snowflake, broadening a golden glow cutting through the cold. It is these sights one recalls when thinking of snow driving, never during the day, never at the behest of animals.
Thus, our moment remained frozen, an icy staredown between twelve deer and one yellow car. The one-antlered deer metaphorically broke the ice first, his hooves pattering upon the gravel to push him off the side of the road. The herd reluctantly followed suit, the children obliging last, clearing a path for the yellow car to continue. It left the breadth of the window, and a conclusion was met.
I wonder what it takes to win a friend back. They’re so frequently let go and rarely return. Expectantly, forgiveness isn’t widespread among juvenile friendships, grudges run rampant, and jealousy attacks scores. This isn’t to say that joy doesn’t abound, for adolescence is often one’s most joyful time. But teenage growth can lead to bifurcation, disparate interests can dissolve partnerships, clique-hopping can proliferate. I’m grateful for who maturity has morphed me into, an observant window resident with an accessible thesaurus, but sad for who it’s turned my friend into, an overly-anxious burnout with impulsive decisions made too regularly. She’s found new friends, I have too, and our friends overlap, but we never do.
A few days after the moment froze, once the snow melted and the sun returned, so did the yellow car. It cruised down the street, turning my head and attracting my eyes.
I swear it smiled at me.