Then there it was, above the Hillside Square Pavilion, a squirrel set in stone. A chill ran down my spine.
I wish I could say that I simply hate squirrels. I can’t, I’m afraid of them. I wasn’t always like this.
Ages ago, when I was living in Boston, I was sitting on bench looking out at the harbor, reading a book. Minding my own business, but I sensed a presence. From the corner of my eye, I noticed a squirrel. Just looking at me. I shrugged it off. It was just a squirrel after all.
But that sense of boding grew. I looked again and he was still, still just staring at me. I tried to read, but couldn’t focus. Can a squirrel lick his chops? I swear that’s what I heard right before the sound of grass being ripped by the sharp claws of a beast racing across the lawn. He was coming for me.
That beast tried to take a bite out of my shoe.
There was nothing casual about the way I jumped up from the bench, nor in the way I scrambled across the lawn. When I tripped, tumbling to the ground, I thought this was how I was going to die.
Years later, I was in grad school in Illinois. It was a beautiful fall day. I was eating my lunch on a bench on the quad. My bologna sandwich (that’s not a poor graduate student lunch, I actually really like bologna) was on my lap.
On the bench next to me was a squirrel.
My heart sank. He had that same look. That stare. That hunger.
I tried to play it cool. I was taking a swig of water, when I saw him leap.
He leapt onto my bench. A second leap onto my lap.
Grabbing hold of my sandwich, he tried to make off with it. He probably would have succeeded had I not jumped into the air with my arms flailing. Actually, he probably did succeed. I ran off and didn’t look back. He no doubt ate my bologna sandwich off the ground.
So forgive me if in my refuge upon seeing a squirrel on that frieze I froze. My inner monolog tried to laugh it off, but not even my monolog was buying it.
Like with heights and teams sports, I have decided to face my fears. Rather than run away, I decided to take a picture. If the clarity is a little off, it is because my hands were shaking. I backed away, not taking my eyes off him. Rather than face my fears, perhaps I should try to conquer them.
Nevertheless, I would have my revenge.
I was in the Scholar’s Courtyard when I heard a rustle in the tree.
It was a squirrel. But it wasn’t alone. There was a Steller’s Jay too. Those birds are tough. The squirrel must have gotten too close to her nest, because she was having none of him.
I think I was taking a little too much pleasure in their game of cat and mouse. The jay finally chased the squirrel away. I may have chuckled out loud, because she looked at me. I froze. She stared, her stare locked on me.
I backed away.
So it seems it’s heights, team sports, squirrels and now Steller’s Jays.