I must tell you that in the thick of autumn on a sixty-mile stretch of Michigan highway between my cold apartment and my dark office I’ve lost count of the number of mangled deer carcasses staining the concrete shoulder, whiplashed, eyes vacant, thin necks assuredly bent at some horrendous angle, clumps of bones and fur scattered across the lanes, and the fallen leaves around the bodies as dark as dried blood, everything eventually going brown, but the putrid mess is there and gone before I can bother to signal and veer toward the outskirts of the splatter, something I should be more prepared for given the routine nature of this occurrence, even though perhaps there is nothing natural about this scene at all, the machine proficiently cradling me, the cruise control set at seventy-five miles per hour, much too fast for animals to fully comprehend; I nearly hit a deer myself the other morning, a mature doe clopping across an on-ramp before it leapt onto the median, my brakes thankfully holding tight so that my white sedan was not smeared in red, and I fretted that as the doe moved along she would soon be trapped, still needing to cross the other half of the road, likely to be unseen in the hazy minutes before sunrise, again this being Michigan in late fall, but somewhere in the middle of this reflection I remember that this particular kind of survival is all up to chance, nothing more than bad luck and consequential timing, any of us could make a fatal misstep at any moment, whereas far away from this otherwise mundane section of roadway there are millions of civilians being intentionally bombed, thousands dead in the instant of a catastrophic blast or slow under the weight of rubble, the tons of murderous explosives manufactured and purchased with the taxes I pay to fill this very vehicle with harmful fossil fuel, so that I can commute to my job, so that I can occasionally shop at the fancy grocery store, the whole of my weak existence complicit in so many atrocities, and I should never forgive myself (and I never will), but this is not even to mention the mass displacement and forced starvation, the homes abandoned and the keepsakes left behind, the brutality of erasure occurring in real time, violence begetting more violence with nothing learned, and by the time I’ve tried to process my guilt and grief, emotions that do nothing for anyone but me, my sadness yet another cowardly method to trick myself out of taking meaningful action, the sun has risen high enough in the rearview to hurt my vision, and the traffic has worsened, and the precarity of my commute has fallen away to brightly lit comfort, for I will arrive at the office and lose the day to emails and meetings, convinced the forthcoming evening will finally be the one where I stay up late and solve my inconsistencies, that I will land on how I can make a demonstrable difference beyond shaking my head at the newspaper, but in truth I realize this pattern of passivity could sum up my entire life, for I’ve been doing everything in my power to hold the steering wheel steady, alert and terrified that the tiniest mistake will prevent me from reaching my destination safely and on time.

Aram Mrjoian is the Editor-in-Chief of The Rumpus and a 2022 Creative Armenia – AGBU Fellow. His debut novel, Waterline, will be published by Harper Via in 2025. Find his work at arammrjoian.com.

Artwork by Marvin Liberman