heartbeat, it's a love beat.
Some of the people who walk their dogs in the park like to goad them into chasing squirrels. It almost always ends the same way. The squirrel runs up a tree. The dog runs to the base of the tree, understands it can't go any farther, and turns to look at its human with a face that says, "why did you make me do this when you knew the creature i was pursuing had the ability to change the game? are you stupid? never mind. don't answer that. i'm going home."
one day a german shepherd was quick enough to get its teeth around the face of a black squirrel. in a moment of compassion that might have surprised even him, the man who encouraged the dog to attack the squirrel told it to let go and led it away. the squirrel stood there screaming. unhurt but terrified.
a young woman with hair dyed the colour of blood saw it happen. she walked over to the squirrel. her friends followed her with their eyes glued to their cellphones, because some people who don't have dogs to walk take their phones to the park instead. she cupped her hands and made a place for the squirrel. she let it come to her and then she picked it up and set it down on her shoulder. it stood perched there like a bird. she started stroking the top of its head with her fingers. it stopped screaming. and while her friends stood huddled around her texting and filming so they could watch this later and experience some flattened-out semblance of what they were living through right now without knowing it, their faces pale masks devoid of anything any other creature would have mistaken for emotion, with nothing but her body and the sadness spilling out of her face she restored something like equilibrium to an animal with a heart hammering out a rhythm twice as fast her own.
she'd never felt a living thing so small and still surrender itself to her so completely. maybe this is what love is, she thought. maybe just this.