Luca and I prepare for our hunt. I feel as though I am dressed well enough, I mean, it’s not Canada, right? Luca’s mother offers me a heavy thick coat. I politely decline it and tell her I still have the red windbreaker in the van. “But it is red..” she points out the obvious. “Oh.. right..” we both burst into laughter at my mindlessness.
Luca pulls the van into a field after mazing through a series of roads and highways. My sense of direction has never been good. At this point though I am so completely lost that I give up on trying to think about where we could be, or how to get back. I get out and slam the door, Luca hisses at me to be quiet. Oh right, were hunting. I shake my head at myself for not getting into hunting mode. I just can’t bring myself to feel it. In Canada getting into a hunting mode is so much easier for me. It is all so wild and alive. Here, I feel like it’s too easy. I whisper to Luca exactly what I’m thinking. He knows. He was working as a hunting guide in Canada, of course he knows. We climb into a hunting stand and sit there. We watch for life along the sides of the field we’re looking over. Luca points to the treeline and tells me he sees a deer there. “Can’t you see it?” He asks. I shake my head. I look so hard for it as he watches it for some time. I see nothing. My hunting skills at this point aren’t looking very promising. The “deer” walks away.
I see movement further down the tree line and point to it. Luca looks at it and says he doesn’t see it. He hands me the gun to look through the scope and I see a stump. Not a deer. I’m wondering at this point if he’s wondering why he even brought me here. I sigh and look to the open field. I see a deer walking through the field looking backwards towards where it must have come from. I smack Luca’s leg and point. He sees it and whispers that there must be more coming from where it’s looking. It walks right up to the stand and then behind it. We are giggling at how stupid this deer is. Luca whispers that the way the wind is blowing that it will catch our scent and run. The deer catches our scent exactly as he said and starts making sounds to the other two deer that have come out of the trees from where this one must have originally come. It doesn’t run away though. It lies down in the field and keeps making its strange sound to the others. Luca glasses the other two, a male and female. He decides that the deer lying down is the biggest, and not very intelligent by the looks of things. The deer stands up and starts walking in front of the stand. Luca has him in his sights. I whisper to Luca to tell me before he shoots.
I cover my ears and force myself to watch.
Luca pulls the trigger and I’m grateful for my hands over my ears. The deer does a complete fucking backflip. It runs fifteen feet forward into the field before starting stumbling over himself and hitting the ground where his legs twitched and ran wild into the air, going nowhere. He stops moving.
Luca and I exchange glances and we both can’t stop smiling. “Holy shit that was so awesome!” I excitedly whisper shout. He looks slightly relieved at my excitement and joins me. I expect us to start running to the deer but Luca tells me he always gives an animal ten minutes. “Look,” he points towards the deer, “You can see it’s still breathing.” I look to where he’s pointing and he’s right. We quietly sit and watch the small deer take its last breaths.
After ten minutes pass we get out of the stand. As I make my way down the steps I ask him if he knows the song Phsyco Killer by The Talking Heads. He does not. I start singing it, “…Psycho Killer…Qu’est-ce que c’est…”He looks at me quizzically and asks if I think he’s a psycho killer. “well.. yea…” I can’t help but laugh.
We walk through the grass and up to the dead deer. He places a hand on it. I know he is thanking the deer. His hand moves to the bullet wound. He explains to me how perfect the shot was as he turns the deer over for me to see. I know exactly where he had aimed, it was the perfect shot. He picks up the deer and we move it closer to some trees. With his knife he opens the deer. I have never seen this done in real life. I was so fascinated by not only the anatomy of the deer but the way that Luca’s hands were so fast and sure, as if he had done this before a hundred times. He explains everything as he works and I watch and listen intently. He uses his knife to split and break the ribcage in half. He pulls everything out and the liver he keeps.
There was something in watching him work that changed something in me. I am always so distrustful of meat, of food.. of life. Watching him work I didn’t feel the familiar distrust. Watching the blood fall from the lifted carcass and back into the earth I felt alive and reborn. This wasn’t something dirty. This was something clean. The blood on Luca’s hands made me think of the earth we had cleared earlier on that day when we planted potatoes in the garden. These hands in earth and blood, there was something in those simple things that made me feel as if life was something to be trusted. That somehow in this I wasn’t floating so much outside myself nervously, but planted firmly into the ground and completely centered within myself.
I felt alive for the first time in a long time.