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She Let Me Live Because She Felt Like It: A Toast

"When I was around seven, I met a half-wolf. By some lapse in my mother's paranoia, my weird uncle was babysitting me that day, and he took me to meet his even-weirder friend, who had a half-wolf dog.

'She won't hurt you, just sit still and don't make any sudden noises,' he grumbled through a cigarette. In hindsight, taking me to meet the wolfdog may have been a ploy to get me to pipe the fuck down. It worked.


I feel like her name was Sasha, but I don't really remember, which is just as well. This was not the sort of creature mortal men can really give a name to. She was twice my size, with thick, coarse fur; on the surface she was white, but the deeper tufts were charcoal grey. She had a mane, almost like a lion, and a long narrow snout, and her eyes, holy god, her eyes. They were so green they seemed to glow with a light that came from Somewhere Else. They spoke to me.


'If you survive this,' said the big green eyes, 'it will be because I let you.'


I was entranced.


I sat for what seemed like years, in a little chair in the opposite corner of the room, transfixed. I won't pretend to remember what my uncle and his friend talked about— if I was trying to make a point, I would invent some pithy dialogue to give them, but the only thing I actually remember is sitting for an eternity in awestruck petrification. Sometime after the Paleolithic age, she stood and walked past me into another room. I was frozen in place, then, her tail swished against my leg, and she was gone.


My uncle's friend died a few years later, and Sasha went to live with his mother. There are very few people in the world who are prepared to have a wolf living in their house, and this old lady was not one of them. I'm sure she did her best, but eventually Sasha bit someone. Animal Control issued a written warning. The lady continued to do her best. Sasha bit someone else.


They put her down.


People don't like what they can't control. I'd like to pretend to be the exception, but I wouldn't have liked being bitten any more than the postman did. Sasha isn't an exception either; she let me live because she felt like it. She was in her own house with a handler she trusted, I was quiet and polite and she had the situation under control. Suddenly she loses everything she's ever known, and here comes this mailman she doesn't know, entering her space, moving around, making noise, trying to TOUCH her, NOT invited, and she lashes out because of course she does. The postman lashes back because of course he does. And now she's dead.


Annoyingly, we can't control what we can and can't control. Even if you're the type of person who can tame a wolf-dog, you can't control when you get cancer. It's hard to like what you can't control, and it's hard to love something you don't like. But, paradoxically, we know control isn't love. So how the fuck does anyone ever manage to love anyone?

Well, there are some hacks that make it easier. There are social institutions, like marriage, that contract people to a predetermined set of norms that can be invoked whenever conflict arises. In this way, theoretically, each individual is held in check, not by another person's controlling behavior, but by their own vows. That works ok sometimes, but I think we can all agree it's not a perfect system. Social constructs will only get you so far.


If you really want to love somebody, you have to make peace with your fear. On some level, you have to decide that getting bitten is less frightening than the prospect of never looking into those eyes and feeling that wonder again. Good luck.


Anyway, I've already gone on too long. I'm sure everyone's ready for dancing and cake. Here's to the lovely couple; I wish you a lifetime of joy together. Cheers."


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