It was Friday night and I had chosen to be the designated driver for another night of college parties and beer runs; That night’s party would be taking place about twenty minutes away from my college campus. Lately I had been doing a lot of “self evaluation,” attempting to reform certain unfavorable aspects of my life. Sometimes being the only sober person in a group of drunken college kids can teach you a lot about yourself; who you are and who you don’t want to be. That night would certainly prove to be a reflective one, filled with new experiences and a final event that would keep me up for nights thereafter.
The party was fun—not too wild or loud; the perfect environment to meet new people and not feel uncomfortable being one of the few people not drinking at the house.
However, as the “jungle juice” (a variety of mixed liquors, juices, and sliced fruits) began to disappear from the oversized garbage can in the living room, I began to feel distanced from everyone at the party. I can only describe this “distance” as like being on the outside of a very funny inside joke. The night got later and people began laughing at everything, stumbling and falling everywhere, getting edgier and louder. It wasn’t long before I was ready to leave.
Thankfully so were some of my friends. We piled into my car and started our drive back to the University. Next to me in the front seat was one of my fraternity brothers; drunk, happy, and eager to ignite conversation within my speeding Monte Carlo. In the back seat were three girls; girls I had briefly met before yet had never actually had any real conversations with.
As we drove home, we all joked and laughed. One girl had clumsily fallen down the stairs just as we were leaving the party, and we teased another for her “awkward encounter” with one of my fraternity brothers.
It was after 1AM when we climbed the final hill that led to the girl’s college dormitory entrance. The ride had been interesting, as many comical topics had been addressed. I was finishing up conversations by flirting with the girls and preparing to say goodnight.
Without warning, in one surreal moment, world wars and poverty would be pushed aside as my world’s pain and suffering would redirect itself to the lonely street that we were driving on.
I narrowly missed it. The white figure gleamed like an angel, vibrant and captivating taking me by surprise. I was driving fast, slightly over the speed limit, and just as I began to slow down to turn into campus, the small cat darted in front of my car.
My relief of narrowly missing hitting it was suddenly exchanged with horror. Like an unexpected twist in a thought-to-be perfect movie ending, a car driving on the opposite side of the road struck the cat. It hit the cars front driver side wheel and then was propelled upward, then back down to the pavement.
Seeing this, I instinctively pulled my car over, jumping out and rushing to the cat.
The executing car sped off into the darkness and it was silent as one or two of the girls followed close behind me.
The cat wasn’t dead though. Its body twitched and contorted on the pavement, writhing in agony as it continuously tried to get up. After several seconds of doing this, it then peacefully sank to the pavement, dieing before I reached it. Ironically, the scene had seemed so over dramatic and fictitious—yet it was occurring right before me. I had never witnessed death before, only seen it acted out on soap operas and cinema screens. Sadly, this was the way that that creature would die, away from its family and in the middle of a cold New Haven street.
Part of me wanted to run back to my car and speed off too. I didn’t want to see the lifeless animal closer, and I was frightened by the possibility that it might still be alive. If I moved it I could harm it more than it was already, or worse, it could die in my arms as I carried it back to my car in hopes of driving to an emergency veterinarian clinic to try and save its life.
Yet the image of white fur contrasted with black pavement drew me forward, casting an unbreakable spell.
“That motherfucker,” I said out loud, gazing up and down the street in search of the driver who’d hit the cat. My words echoed in the night; questions about the nature of man and why people do the heartless things they do, echoing through my mind.
The remainder of the drive back to the University was silent—I clutched the steering wheel angrily, knuckles white and face expressionless.
After dropping the others off, I now had to drive to my own apartment. I felt more distant in my car alone then I had felt all night at the party. My route back would require me passing by the cat one last time.
I hoped it would be gone—that it had somehow stood up and walked away unharmed, now sitting on the lap of its owner being scratched between the ears and purring happily.
As my car approached, the white silhouette was still there, alone, motionless, and distant, in the street.
I drove by slow; the way friends and family say goodbye to a loved one at a wake. Its body was altered, probably hit by another car after I’d left it. I imagined a car filled with drunken college kids, the driver speeding up the car to run the dead body over, then laughing and making jokes that they wouldn’t remember in the morning. I felt sick to my stomach.
I couldn’t sleep that night. The image of death lingered in my bedroom, watching me as I lay in the dark, waiting to invade my dreams.
And as the nature of man is, I proceeded on with my life the next day. Somebody, a mourning cat owner, or an under paid city worker, removed the body from the street in the early morning.
I wondered about the body’s final burial; did someone bury the body under a willow tree or in some sentimental place in their backyard, standing over the broken ground teary eyed and remorseful. Or did somebody merely just toss it into a mangy garbage stained casket, only to be collected by the trash man once the dumpster was full. The thought lingered in my head for a while, and then I wondered if it even mattered.