As I've mentioned, I'd been feeling a bit cooped up now that I was working in an office each day, so to recharge I would take walks during my lunch hour.
Last Wednesday I decided to walk south, following the parks along the lakefront. It was a mild day, and it felt good to be outside. I walked along a path, looking at the trees, imagining how beautiful it would be in spring and summer. I ended up at Monroe, east of Columbus. It's a fairly busy street, with two lanes each way. At this time of day, however it was pretty quiet.
Now, one side effect of the city being bordered by an enormous lake, one lined with parks at the city's edge, is that there are lots of Canada geese that like to hang out. They're very common, kind of like pigeons, only larger and a bit louder.
As I waited to cross Monroe, I saw some in the street, and as the light changed and traffic started to move, they all flew off. All but one. It stood there, directly across from me, staring at the oncoming cars.
I don't know why it stood there. I don't know why it never moved. Maybe it was frozen. Maybe it was confused and disoriented by the cars speeding towards it. I don't know.
The vehicle that hit it was a silver SUV. I'd like to think that it was too hemmed in by other cars to stop or maneuver or slow down. I don't know why it didn't beep its horn; perhaps it was as stunned as the goose. I'd like to think it was something like that.
I stood there as, no more than thirty feet away, the SUV hit the goose full-on. The sound of the impact was like a bat hitting an empty cardboard box at full force. I saw the goose get hit, then fall under the wheels of the vehicle. It rolled underneath from front to back, bouncing between the pavement and the bottom of the vehicle, rolling like a load of laundry in a dryer.
The SUV never slowed or stopped. It kept going. The other cars swerved to avoid the goose and they, too, kept going. I had my hands pressed against either side of my head, yelling, "NO NO NO!" When the cars had all passed, the goose lay in the street.
"Please let it be dead, please let it be dead," I chanted, trying to make it so.
Its head came up.
There was almost no traffic, but I held my hands up and yelled "STOPSTOPSTOP!!" as I ran across to the goose. It was on its stomach mostly. I could see its black webbed feet crumpled under it, a small amount of bright-red blood contrasting against them. Intestines showed from under its wings. I wanted to get it out of the street, but I was afraid of hurting it further. Its head was weaving around, its beak wide open in a soundless scream. I noticed that there were ridges on the edges of its beak, and felt that I was looking at something intimate, private, a secret I should not know, because I should not be sitting next to a broken goose gaping in disoriented agony.
"Okay, okay, okay," I said softly. I didn't know what else to say. I knew my presence was probably making it more afraid, and I felt as helpless as the goose. I circled its neck gently to prevent it from being able to bite me, and kept talking gently to it, looking at its ruined body and wondering how to move it. Then its head slowly faded to the pavement, and, mercifully, it was gone.
All of this -- from the initial impact to the death -- took less than a minute. We talk about a short time feeling like it lasts forever; I think that what really happens is that most of the time we register every third or fourth second. With this, I registered every single second in perfect clarity, and was present in every one. I felt every second from beginning to end, no distractions, no condensing.
I vaguely registered that my back was to where traffic would come from when the light changed, but I didn't seem to care, although part of me found it curious that I didn't. I picked the goose up by getting my fingers under the edges of its wings and sort of pressing my hands together to suspend it. Its feathers were so very soft. They were mottled white and brown and looked so clean. I placed the goose's body on the sidewalk and arranged its head so that it wasn't crumpled. Its insides still peeked out from under its body, but there was very little blood. A minute ago it had been this beautiful, sentient thing; one car had turned it into trash.
I walked away into the park on the other side, my body feeling like a jangling mass of pieces that all wanted to explode in separate directions. I decided to call SP, knowing that he would understand and not make some remark about what a nuisance geese are. While I looked at my keypad for the number, I saw a man walking toward me out of the corner of my eye. I was in a pretty busy area, but my section of the park was deserted. I could see the goose beyond, lying on the sidewalk, people reacting with revulsion as they passed it.
The man was closer, and he was walking straight toward me. I was in no mood to be mugged. He had on some ID around his neck. He was wearing a T-shirt and had long hair. I turned to face him, bracing myself.
"I saw that you tried to help that bird," he said. "That was nice."
I was caught off guard. "I think the Park Department will come pick him up now. He didn't have a chance, but I couldn't just let him lie there. At least he died quickly," I stammered.
"Well, anyway, that was a nice thing to do."
I walked away and called SP, who was a good listener, and who knows that sometimes I just need to talk.
And then I went back to my office another way. I haven't walked that way since.