It was 2014, after dinner but before Thanksgiving when I sawed off the head of a deer. We were in the back shed surrounded by the thick scent of fresh death, and I was just a guest, an outsider when it comes to survival. “This should get us through winter,” the father said to his only child – a daughter – and she filled their glasses with cherry-smoked whiskey, offered me a sip and said it tastes like potpourri.
Dear ten-year-old me, I’m sorry for breaking all the promises I swore to keep. You’ll start drinking at fifteen and make poor decisions for the sake of life experience. When things with the deer hunting daughter turn sour, you’ll say to a friend, “This doesn’t seem like her.” Your friend will say, “Maybe you never really knew her.”
Maybe I never really knew her, but that hadn’t stopped me from calling her crazy – a cop out when it comes to comprehending the misunderstandings. Our vastly different upbringings led to judgements based on geography, but does life in the woods beget insanity any more than life in a bubble of suburban safety?
The cat said: We’re all mad here.
It was 2010 and in an ironic ode to childhood, my friend chose not to wear shoes that summer. So when we got to the pharmacy, she turned to her boyfriend and said, “Can you go in for me?” She shoved a couple 20s into his hand. When he went inside I said, “Don’t let this happen again.”
She giggled and shrugged and assured me: Three rounds of Plan B won’t lead to infertility. The next summer she miscarried and we all called her crazy. We joked and said the word condom is not in her vocabulary. Looking back, I understand why she stopped talking to me.
A girl I knew in college was nicknamed for her drinking habits. Blackout is out of her mind, we’d say, but when Blackout graduated and quit the keg-stand acrobatics, she learned that the past is formed by selective memory and reputations don’t die easily.
They say theater kids are insane. They say stay away from rowers, runners and rugby players. They say don’t mess with me just because I’m under five feet. Sometimes as a child, I’d rip off a bandage one hair follicle at a time instead of all at once because secretly I got off to that sort of slow, tedious pain.
We all learned early on that the bone-breaking sticks and stones were nothing in comparison to the lazy euphemisms defining our differences. Getting to know a girl is never easy, but don’t write her off as crazy just because you couldn’t take the time to learn her back story. Don’t misinterpret compassion for insanity or exaggerate her baggage just to prove something. The cat said we’re all mad. These varying degrees of crazy is what makes life interesting. Don’t fight her fiery passion with an extinguisher. Stoke the flames and believe me, she’ll make an excellent lover.