The Skunk and I

I am a collector of words and phrases. Often enough, I will stumble across a quote, scribble it down on a Post-it Note and put it in my pants pocket. The note is always discovered upon pocket checks  on laundry day. This is done intentionally for my future self. They are always reminders and sometimes even appear before me like foreshadowed destiny.

On one particular rainy afternoon when performing the ritual of folding freshly- washed clothes, a piece of paper slipped past the not-so-rigorous inspection. It lay on the floor in front of the washing machine face-up with the words, “You can’t kill time with your heart. Everything takes time. Bees have to move very fast to stay still.” David Foster Wallace wrote this in his short story “Forever Overhead.”

After reading his work in my creative writing class I fell in love with that sentence. Yet, I didn’t know why. I crumpled up the Post-it and threw it away. Two weeks later, I stared at a familiar friend, remembered the quote and knew why I cherished it.

Now, this may sound strange, very strange, but the familiar friend was a skunk. Since the beginning of the school year I have been seeing the same skunk constantly. The black creature with two off-white streaks down its back first appeared to me outside of Capen. The next night, post-production at The Oracle, it nestled in some trash next to the dumpster outside my bathroom window. This continued on and off for a while and then as mysteriously as my furry companion came into my life, it disappeared.

Weeks went by without a skunk sighting and I occasionally wondered about the critter with a bad reputation. I never thought to name it. At first the fear of immersing myself in tomato juice to rid an unwarranted attack terrified me and now I longed to see it. I couldn’t tell you why, I just did.

A few days before spring break we met again. The skunk slinked across the parking lot adjacent to Bouton and I knew it was my old pal. It had to be the same animal that remained awake with me at 1 a.m. after copy editing for seven hours. If a musical were to be made about our relationship it would be called “The Skunk and I.”`

In this moment, David Foster Wallace’s words swam to the forefront of my consciousness and a mini epiphany emerged. The past few months leading up to spring break were full of stress from schoolwork and a tireless search for a summer internship. In that instant, however, I looked at the skunk and thought of my pocket note and felt at peace.

Time is always moving forward and no creature can ever control that. We yield ourselves over to time and the changes that come along with it. Though life may often feel out of our control, these little wonderfully unexpected moments provide consistency and reassurance that everything will be okay in the end. Seeing the skunk, in some weird way, made it all feel okay.