ANTELOPE FROM THE LEFT

My dad spent hour after hour behind his car’s steering wheel, drifting from one dusty town to the next, ensuring the abundance of his products in stores and shops. The only company that drifted along was the local radio stations and his thoughts. He and I shared a love of solitude and he found much satisfaction in those lonely trips.

You can plan for gas and you can plan for car trouble, but you can’t plan for antelope from the left, he used to say when I grilled him about the safety of such frequent travel. See, my country is rich with animal life and more than a few lives have been lost after vehicles crashed into or veered away from antelope dashing across the road. They come from nowhere, appearing from thin air like they’re crossing from another plane of reality to this one. And the speed of your reactions or the clarity of your mind could not prevent disaster. Speed would move you to swerve out of the way, but little chance exists of maintaining control of a vehicle at high speed, especially where wheels leave the stability of tarred road. Absence of speed would mean you hit the massive animal head on.

My dad’s mentality was to remain as alert as he can be, to stay within speed limits and deal with each surprise as it comes…

My antelope hit me from left today and it came in the shape of a call from my orthopedic surgeon. I have to go in for another operation mid January. A small one and a quick one, but a one nonetheless. I was not prepared for the news, I don’t want it to happen, but there’s nothing I can do to stop it.

As I write this I wonder why I’m so upset. Millions of people across the world endure much worse fates. Am I just an entitled douche-taxi?

I think I feel devastated because it means my independence, the one thing from which I gain identity, has been taken from me. And now its loss has been extended. It means more anesthesia, more pain, more hospitals.

And more COVID testing in which they jam a swab so high up your nose, you wonder if they’re doing a COVID test or taking a brain biopsy.

And then there’s the almost whiplash-inducing change from intense gratitude towards my friends, to the overwhelming desire to be alone and wallow in self-pity.

My dad swerved for a dashing antelope once. His car hit the gravel next to the road and started tumbling like a toy car falling off a kid’s bed. When he woke up in what was left of the wreckage, he crawled out and simply started walking to the nearest town.

But he was like that, my dad: shake it off and get on with it.

Tonight, I’m not like my dad. The antelope hit me and I’m down. Tonight, I remain in my wreckage feeling sorry for myself.

Tomorrow I’ll start strolling to the next town.

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