deer in a trap
I was introduced to fear through the eyes of a deer caught in a trap. I was twelve, curious, and sitting before my computer the year Youtube was under fire for unfiltered content. The scene before me was heavily saturated, the result of holding a camcorder too close to the light. Despite feeling nauseous from how yellow the screen glowed, I watched as the fawn struggled underneath a bear trap tied to the stump of an old, rotting tree. Although the hand holding the camera kept shaking and the hunters all talked too close to the speakers, I could still hear her cries as the men crowded her with glee. The moment the camera pans into her eyes, I immediately stood up and cried. Not even turning off my computer.
Ever since then, I’ve been dreaming of densely packed forests. I dream of trees so high they crawl into the sky like claws, covering the sun to trap the terrain in a permanent state of sleep. I can smell the dew rising off the leaves, the soil, and the stream. But more importantly, I can smell the blood drying above the stones. The sour, bitter scent had made its home down my throat. And as the crickets surround me with their cries, I can only hear my breathing, broken and rough at the sight of her beaten corpse. The stench was enough to send me awake. And even if the relief lulls me back to sleep, the taste of rotting flesh inside my mouth has kept me awake for hours.
Often, I see myself in her. And just like the young deer, I wanted to escape.
So I started scratching.
It started under my chin, above the space where the base of my neck and my collarbone meets. I would pick at the surface, rubbing and scrubbing against the skin even if nothing was there. I’d move up to my cheek and glide down my arm. The hesitant scraping would turn harsher, faster, and more frantic as if I was trying to peel off this layer of discomfort only found underneath my bones. It grew so frequent to the point where it woke me up in the middle of the night. My skin will turn red from all the grating. My body could no longer contain the anxiety; something was rotting within me, and it attracted a swarm. Although no one could see them, I could feel the flies as they roamed all over my arms, legs, mouth; attracted to the sound of my blood. The insects would crawl down my marrow and hibernate inside my chest, trying to bury themselves in every corner. Their buzzing made it hard to ignore how my heart felt full, bloated, and ready to burst at any given time.
“ I feel trapped, “ I finally confessed, “ I used to feel like a bird in a cage, but these days I am the cage and I am the bird and I am the windowless room that they are kept in. I can feel it. I am ripe and heavy and ready, yet who will eat me except for the flies and the ants and eventually, the Earth? I believe one day I will tear myself apart with my own hands, and only then will I finally find release.”
Back then, it terrified me to see the fawn chewing on her leg to set herself free rather than sitting still in silence and despair. She was gripped with the need to survive, despite suffering through each bite. And the hunters just stood there, gathered in a circle to watch. At some point, their excitement dwindled to a stop. They were just staring, enraptured, and the forest around them started to breathe even louder.
When I visited the video a few years later, it had been flagged down, yet the image was fresh and new, like a painting framed against the backdrop of my mind.
That was my earliest memory of fear, and as I grew older, nothing scared me more than myself. It is time to accept that none of us are passive observers behind a dirty, yellow screen. Because I am both the Hunters and the Deer. How can I possibly cut one free from the other? It doesn’t matter how many traps I’ve set for myself; I will always wake up in the middle of this woodland, past the river, shrouded by the trees.
And when I envision her carcass, I can’t help but imagine myself in her place. Bruised and battered, alone in the middle of an endless forest. Slowly decomposing under the gentle sway of the wind. I would scratch the base of my neck and listen to the flies buzz next to my ear. Understanding that the image of myself returning to the soil gave me more comfort than the idea of being alive yet trapped by the stump of an old rotting tree.
A.Z, deer in a trap, an excerpt from my journal