Last night, we were driving around the south suburbs when I spotted something hopping sporadically on the road. At this time of year, it easily could have been a leaf skittering across; it’s easy to perceive blowing leaves as moving like animals under the right conditions. But just as it dawned on me that it was an animal — a very large toad — and I was trying to say something about it, I felt the wheel of the car go over it. This is an indescribably ugly sensation as it plays upon the mind. A toad that had lived long enough to become a large adult — gone just like that. And no doubt just one of many that is killed on the road every day.
We talked about it. It was inevitable — there was no way the toad could have crossed the entire expressway unscathed. It was unavoidable — it happened so quickly, and any effort to avoid it would have likely resulted in an accident anyway. Yet, it seemed an awful thing, accruing greater importance than the actual event.
I have been feeling somewhat morose about life in general — the life of “quiet desperation” that the times seem to be encouraging, the inability to return to the naievete and therefore simple pleasures and joys of childhood, the revulsion I have for current events, my own inability to cope with personal issues right now and to take action, the loudness and blare of life today that so ill suits me, the turning of the countryside into a shopping mall for “convenience,” oh, and so many other reasons . . . the needless death of a toad may be that one typically tiny incident, insignificant in itself, that encapsulates all the feelings of despair that spiral downward into life-sapping hopelessness and feed the cycle. Is there a bottom to this pit?