Liv went for deep runs in the middle of night with both hands open (like this), like something was about to fall in them. They were flat facing sky, as her feet flat faced the back roads of Upstate, pounding. The trees consumed, the darkness peeled back as her eyes adjusted. She wanted to be eaten whole, by plants, branches, the dirt and the moon itself. She wanted to disappear.
In the living rooms of occasional houses Liv passed recollections of her own: the yellow globes of lamp light pressing the insides of windows like they too wanted to get out. The blue flicker of televisions, all the driveways holding trucks. They looked like matchbox cars if Liv ran fast enough. If she sprinted they grew smaller, as did everything, which is why she ran.
The night worked on engines, legs pumping cylinders. She wondered how many times she could do this before they gave out and collapsed or catapulted her toward stars. Sometimes Liv tried to look up as she ran, watching planets streak in silver stripes. They were crying, they were crying, too.
Once she ran from Route 40 to Old Lantern and into a deer. It wasn’t the way Liv imagined a deer would flip its tail from brown to white upon seeing her fast face bend the curve, sneakers stirring dust like hooves. No. This deer stopped still. She blinked her eyes as if she were making a turn.
Hello? The night was still enough to hear the fall of frozen branches.
Hello? Hey. Liv took a step closer. This deer on stalk legs turned her brown head.
In the black country night you know which way the stars point, how alone you are and how not. The deer and Liv were surrounded by a different life: the constant hum of nature, unseen bugs and hibernating creatures, the grass getting ready to someday stick its neck up again through impossibly hard soil. Humans dotted the landscape with occasional houses, but here home was everywhere, half comforting, half dangerous.
The deer knew this wild but not her four walls with fists and shakes. The light that would burn through the night, afraid as she was to turn it off.
Hey wild one, Liv taunted the deer who swished the air with tail, her whole body taut.
Let’s move, she seemed to say in the way she stood, ready.
Liv was ready.
That day as dusk had begun to eat around the edges of her little house, the walls had become porous by fists and he had become so large and small at the same time. His pain, a feral whirling. That’s when the darkness outside became safe. Safer. The trail and the unknown off the trail.
Liv followed into the night to eat berries and be a deer, simply. No more fights with the hulking man. No more death-metal-pick-up. No more sadness. She loved him but had to be a deer now and that was that.
Liv bolted on four legs, wrapped in the softness of new fur. The night at last swallowed her and she could smell the stars, and rivaled them with her own fast silver strength.