Dear Judah and Phoebe,
In June of 2004, the Pistons were on their way to an NBA championship, John Kerry was on his way to ousting George W. Bush as president and I was on my way home. I graduated from college and, as swiftly as our Saturn station wagon had stewarded me to Columbia four years earlier, I found myself back in the same room in the same house in the same suburb that had motivated me to bolt for New York in the first place.
To my surprise, it appeared my soul mate had been waiting there for me all along — playful, restless, sweetly stubborn. No, Jackson, the border collie my parents got to replace me when I left for school, is not your mother. But he helped find her.
Jackson and I woke up every day, usually in the morning, and went jogging. I wouldn’t go too fast, for fear of wearing out my four-legged friend, and the pace gave us a chance to talk about life. And girls, though he had a much cruder name for them.
I told him that I was bullish about coming back to continue working in Detroit — back to our inspiring young mayor and upcoming Super Bowl, which the Lions would no doubt win on their home turf — and that I was nervous about meeting girls. Or not meeting them.
Then, one morning (or morning-adjacent) jog, we triumphantly dashed across Long Lake Road only to almost trip over a moss-covered rock in the middle of the street. But this wasn’t a typical rock. It was a turtle. It was a rock-shaped turtle that didn’t stand a chance against the SUV drivers distracted by their Motorola Razr flip phones and Maroon 5 CDs.
Unable to convince Jackson that the turtle was, in fact, a rock, I went into what can only be described as Suburban MacGyver Mode, racing home and grabbing the first things I could find: a pair of oven mitts and a cardboard box.
Back at the entrance to the Wabeek North subdivision — a paved-over wetland that must have been much more reptile-friendly when the turtle was born 100 or so years earlier — I told myself to stop thinking. Stop thinking, I thought. Get said turtle in said box and then you can start thinking again.
This is why I’m bad at yoga; I couldn’t stop thinking. About not thinking about not thinking about one thing: the turtle does not know that you are trying to save it. I should have been thinking (to the extent I had to think about something) about what I did not know.
I did not know that this turtle was a snapping turtle. Until it snapped. At which point, unlike MacGyver, I screamed and passed out.
When I regained consciousness, I checked to see if I still had all my fingers. I still had all my fingers. I also had guests, the family whose house I was standing in front of. I also had no clothes on, except some contraband late-90s Umbro shorts I had “lost” after soccer one year and a headband that would have made Richard Simmons blush.
Note: In 2004, people made frequent MacGyver and Richard Simmons references and listened to Maroon 5 on compact disc.
Hey neighbors! Scarcely fleet of foot enough to run away, I had no alternative but to pretend like there was nothing unusual about these circumstances. Just a three-quarters naked guy jogging in oven mitts past a turtle that, like the Warner Brothers’ singing cartoon frog, had gone back to its mild-mannered centenarian mossy rock pose. And a box.
The wife must have found me pretty charming on that fateful day 10 years ago. No, kids, that married mother of two young children who lived down the street from my parents is not your mother. But her sister is. RT