In 1985, just after I graduated from Ohio State University with a Master’s degree in Sociology, I met another recent graduate whose Master’s degree was in Philosophy. When two people meet and become friends, sometimes one of them is satisfied to make an acquaintance, while the other is keen to make more of it. He ingratiated himself into a casual friend status with me and I let him come around and talk because finding someone else who is interested in discussing philosophy is not as easy as one might think. I saw him a couple of times a month for a while, even though I had been put off by the ankle-length flowing white gown that he was wearing when I met him. The gown was cinched at his chubby waist with a belt that matched his sandals. He said that he wore the gown on that day only to celebrate his field of study Philosophy, to honor his predecessors like Cicero, Socrates, and other philosophers in antiquity. I met him as he was walking through the university campus literally moments after he had passed his Master’s oral exams. He said that his professors had granted him the degree, but that they had treated him unkindly in the process, and that made me pity him. Later I would wonder that he had the acumen to pass at all. For obvious reasons, I do not want to give his name, although by now he would be in his seventies, if here at all, and he might not care.
He occasionally painted his fingernails black when he was in a dark mood so that his persona vacillated widely between a stout, smiling Jesus Christ-esque figure and something sour and malevolent. When he told me that he was a pagan warlock I thought that he was joking and simply, simple-mindedly forgot about it. (I have since learned to listen when people tell me who they are.) Once we went to a small restaurant and we were refused service because his long black fingernails frightened and offended them. The waitress came out, took one look at him, turned on her heel, went back into the kitchen, and stayed there. No one ever came out to serve us. That was embarrassing. I had not noticed his long black fingernails before, they frightened and offended me too. As I said he was a casual friend and today I wonder at my lack of discrimination. Those were the days of acceptance of almost any conceivable alternative lifestyle and the promotion of a very wide range of diversity so I suppose that I was trying too hard not to be prejudicial. He smoked marijuana and I did not, but I allowed him the standard rule that I had in my younger years of letting him into my life if he did not smoke in my presence. Again, I wonder at my lack of discrimination. (There are no smokers or tokers in my life today.)
When I told him of an incident when a large, crazed man whom I did not know had tried to break down the door of the carriage house where I lived, he wrote out a prophylactic “spell” on a scrap of paper and tucked it between two of the foundation bricks to protect me. What nonsense, superstition, and mumble jumble. I was annoyed because solutions are best found by dealing with cause and effect, and I dislike pretending, but I let it slide.
When he invited me to his mother’s house for a holiday meal, I was surprised because we were not that close. In retrospect I think that he wanted to impress me with his family's considerable wealth and status. I went because I was hoping for an after-dinner philosophical debate. Perhaps all of his family had his extensive vocabulary and quick, agile mind. That would be fun. It was a longish drive out into the autumn Ohio countryside, and the leaves were just beginning to turn in the crisp, cool air. I like to drive in the country and I tend to slow down to take it in, so when he sped along the narrow, winding, country road I asked him to slow down. We had not been talking and I had not noticed that he was angry about something. He had been deep in thought and had wrapped himself in a foul mood. He drove faster up over a series of short, rolling hills, the visibility over which was zero. I cried out, “Please, please slow down. I have a premonition that something terrible is going to happen.” If anything he stepped up the speed. And sure enough, BUMP, bump, bump, bump. Just over the crest of the hill, in the middle of the road, he ran over and killed a family of raccoons, mother and her three kits, none escaped. He killed them where they stood, mesmerized by the speeding car, watching us scythe them down. He must have seen them but he did not brake for them. With a different kind of bad luck that road kill could have been us killed that day.
It was not a matter of forgiving him, I could not speak to him. By mute and mutual consent, we never spoke again. He left me off at his mother’s house where I waited until his brother could drive me home. His mother tried to soothe both of us, but it stretched her too thin.
Caption: His Wanton Road Kill Of Raccoons
collage by Annmarie Throckmorton 2018
Source for raccoons: https://pixabay.com/ free images.