There’s that moment, when the predator has caught his or her prey and holds it still in their talons or claws or teeth. The desperate thrashing has ceased and the two are alone, any other prey fleeing and any other predators keeping a wary distance. This moment is intimate and sacred between the two of them. They are the last moments the prey will have and it will spend them with no one else besides the creature that brought the prey to this moment. Both breathing hard, covered in the wounds of the struggle, they regard each other for a moment that stretches into something much more profound.
I was watching a nature show this weekend and it occurred to me that I felt almost like a voyeur. The moment between these wild animals as one prepared to end the life of another was striking in its intimacy, almost like watching people having sex or a really profound hot scene. These two animals looked into each other’s eyes with no pretense, both of them seeing the other for what they truly were. I realized that this is how most wild animals eventually die, in the grip of a hungry predator, eager for their flesh, but as I watched that final moment, it also seemed like there was some kind of understanding and respect passing between them just before the prey’s life met its brutal end. My mind immediately went to scenes I have had, both as predator and as prey and how that moment, that exact moment of barren honesty, is EXACTLY what I crave from a scene.
No one knows an animal better than its predator. It is the predator’s job to know it’s prey better than that prey knows itself. Any hunter can tell you that in order to make a kill, you first have to understand the animal you are stalking. You learn their habits, their environment, their deepest likes and dislikes. You follow them and know them until you can slip seamlessly into their environment, disappearing to them. You must watch them and you have to be patient enough to wait until the right moment. It’s not unlike the singleminded obsession of a person in love. There is lust in blood lust.
When the moment to strike finally arrives, there is struggle, each side pitting all their strength and endurance into the fight. The prey can only give everything they have, but the predator must constantly measure whether this potential meal is worth the fight or if it’s wiser to retreat and save their energy for something else. The contest between them is brutal and only ends if the prey evades the predator, the predator decides the prey isn’t worth the fight anymore, or the prey is caught. How many times have I felt that awful, delicious dread in the beginning of a scene, of knowing that the predator is drawing near and there is no escape. I pit my strength against theirs, but secretly, unlike the wild animal fighting for its very life, I hope I will lose. I long for what comes after, that embrace, to look into the predator’s eyes and feel them looking into mine, knowing me completely.
I long to be known, in a way that is deeper and more penetrative than the biblical sense of knowing. I long to be known in a way that goes beyond the physical and is reached when my defenses are ripped open by the brutal attack, my very soul laid bare. I long to be brought to that end, to be known, and held tightly. In that moment, after the struggle, when I have given my all and given in and let the pain just flow over me in waves, waves that crash over my head, so far above that I no longer feel their impact, that is where we meet. That is where I find peace in the grip of the predator or I finally am able to take a breath and regard my prey. In that moment, we look into each other’s eyes and I struggle no more.
Unlike the wild animals, I will live after this moment and live to relive it again and again, each time reaching this singular moment where we are more naked than mere humans can be. We are our most primitive, basic selves together and those primitive, basic selves accept what the other has to give. I claim or am claimed and there is healing in that acceptance. Their is nourishment beyond a meal caught and devoured. Our souls feed on each other.
And we are both satisfied.