It’s time to wrap up the week, and this quick, bittersweet story from Tara Masih is a perfect way to do it. “Turtle Hunting” is excerpted from Tara’s collection, Where the Dog Star Never Glows. Happy weekend everyone!
He took me turtle hunting once. How many of you can say that your lovers have taken you turtle hunting?
We ask for sensitivity, but eventually their pain becomes more than we can bear.
I’ll take you, he says. Maybe we’ll find one.
And he pulls me through the trees, green-yellow dappling the spongy floor. We pause by granite slabs, tilted sideways to the earth, crimson ivy pulling them down. And we stand silently, our shadows falling over the dark stones.
We were intruders foreshadowing our own demise.
I try to read the chiseled names and dates eroded by lichen. Their names did not even last a century.
The turtles are by the water, he says. You can see their small nostrils sometimes, just above the surface.
We walk by the edge, and I try to share his wonder, try to ignore the swamp mud tugging at my white sneakers. I wipe them off on damp leaves of skunk cabbage when his back is turned. And I try not to mind the flame-colored poison ivy. I think of the turtles, their bodies sealed off from the world, breathing the only reason for them to stay in it.
They have survived millions of years, their reward for knowing the right balance between vulnerability and defense.
He gives up after a few hours, unsuccessful.
We want what does not exist.
What do you want to do now? Go home? he asks.
We return the way we thought we had come, but a sea of tall grass arrests our progress. Surrounded by grasshoppers, gossamer wings, he takes my hand.
This is the perfect place to make love, he says.
What must remain in order for us to be able to say that we have survived?
I turn my head, my sorrow one with the swarm of miniscule insects I slap away.