An Essayby Rick Bass
Sometimes I’ll be flying somewhere, looking down on the same snowy mountains where, perhaps forty-eight hours earlier, I was hot on the trail of an elk, or hunkered down in blue dusk, watching a white-tailed buck come creeping in, made curious by the sounds of my grunt tube. On the plane I’ll be dressed up (silent protest against those of my species who wear sweatpants on an airplane or, far worse, shorts and, worst of all, a wifebeater T-shirt . . . Why?)
I’m not judging them, I’m just saying it’s gross.
And I’ll be amazed by how slender the difference between then and now can be, and of the borders that can exist between any two things, the lines almost always invisible but somehow significant.
Would my seatmate be discomfited to know that, as recently as the day before—yesterday!—I had opened the deer’s belly and pulled out the heart, liver, kidneys, stomach—all of it, with bright-red fresh blood up to my wrists? Probably.
I might even find myself judged.
Are we not all innocent, are we not all guilty?
I look out the window and down at those same mountains and feel like an impostor, a pretender. I rarely feel more real than when I am hunting and gathering—it doesn’t matter if I’m successful, only that I’m searching—and on the plane, then, it will seem to me that my life above those mountains—at, say, thirty-nine thousand feet—is therefore somehow less real and tinged with something artificial, if not fully fraudulent. Another invisible border.