He had wrinkles in his forehead like a Shar-Pei, wrinkles that were not a product of age but of constitution. He grinned, telling us he had hit a deer that morning, as he was driving down the 280. When he saw the deer from afar, perched at the edge of the right lane like a cherubic statue, he began braking hard. At the moment the linear motion of the car intersected with the deer's spatial plane, the deer stepped into road, like deer do, and in the next second, when he looked into his rearview mirror, he saw the deer in mid-air, a smooth-haired cheerleader in a fatal basket toss.
When he got out of the car, the deer was in the middle of the lane, on its side, curled like a fetus, in a pool of its own blood. The car doors were jammed with tufts of bloody hair, and the metal surface of his car was concave, like a shallow basin. He said he was afraid to approach the deer, for fear it was still alive, but then he saw the look on its face, which was contorted and in agony, a look so absurd it would only be possible beyond life, and he knew the deer was dead.
He showed us a picture of the deer on his phone and told us to zoom into the deer's face so that we could see the absurdity of its death face too. He took a picture of his car doors because he was afraid the tufts of hair would fly away by the time he drove his car home. Documentation was necessary to enhance the spectacular story he would tell later.
We live in a time of digital taxidermy. The instance a moment is captured, it is dead, and our digital document is the stuffed animal, hung on Instagram or Facebook as a souvenir, not only a token of the past but also an artifact of ourselves. The taxidermied thing reveals what we do and what we value, where we are and who we want to be.
He had called his insurance company right after he got out of the car, to see if they covered roadkill damages--not to the animal--to the car. Then he called the California Highway Patrol to see how to proceed. They asked him a few questions, which he answered, and then he drove away. I asked why he didn't take the animal with him--eat the deer meat, clean it, skin it--a stuffed deer head for the wall. It was all a joke, to me and to him, obviously. Taxidermy in an urban setting merely strives to create a non-urban aesthetic--it serves no utilitarian purpose. Perhaps we allow ourselves acceptable ways to be obsessed with death and preservation. Ultimately, in a city, both the physical and digital strains of taxidermy are complicit in the aesthetic construction of ourselves.