‘Leaving Home’ by Jessica Jacobs

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the reception of a mental illness. How it’s welcomed if it ticks a diversity and inclusion box, if it can be tucked away as part of a past no longer discussed. Once it asks to be accommodated, once it asks to be seen or heard, once it becomes a hindrance in any way, it’s dismissed and people would rather not know about it, deal with it or see it.

‘Leaving Home’ by Jessica Jacobs (who will be a featured guest on May’s Just To Say) resonated strongly with me. The ‘red and rolling,’ eyes of the dog as he refuses to put a possum down reminds me of someone in the throes of addiction. Onlookers expect that ‘the light’ will coax him to drop the possum but it’s not that simple, the dog is hungry, the dog sees something soft and warm to sink his teeth into, he does what his body wills him to do and he doesn’t know that his owners will give him away for it, doesn’t know that the love he receives is conditional.

I still refer to therapy as an ‘appointment’ because I often don’t feel safe saying the word out loud. Therapy is where I confine my darkness, where I discuss what it’s like to live with it, to tuck it into a lanyard around my neck and pretend it isn’t hanging there. What would it be like to exist in a world where it’s normal to be open, where mental illness isn’t seen as a weakness submitted to or an excuse to not try hard enough? But there will always be the dogs raised on kibble and trained not to go near another fur-lined creature, who haven’t tasted the iron of the blood, who haven’t felt what it is to be alone in the dark.

Leaving Home by Jessica Jacobs 

The koi were killed by a possum killed by
our dog, whose barks brought my dad to the dark

yard, along with me—his stand-in son, his 
midnight shadow. In the glower of the flashlight,

the dog’s eyes were red and rolling, the possum’s 
fur bright as an errant scrap of daylight.

The dog wouldn’t put it down, bent the pipe 
of the pool skimmer my father used to lever

the body free from his jaws. My parents
gave the dog away soon after. Because, I suspect,

wildness can live in the suburbs only so long 
as it doesn’t bare its teeth; so long as when the light

finds it, it drops its prey and wags its tail; 
so long as we confine our darkness to the dark. 
Jessica Jacobs collection, Take Me with You, Wherever You’re Going

Republished with the permission of the author.