A long, dumb day at work, one that began for me at 5:00 a.m., ended perfectly -- in a way -- when I saw Dar being ridden by Jack. In the first instant, I didn't recognize him. I was parked on Bully Boy, my golf cart, talking with a friend, when I heard a horse approaching. I turned, intending to move out of the way. That's when I saw him. What a beautiful horse, I thought. In the next instant, I saw Dar. My emotions rose, but they were contained by rationality. I was glad to see that Dar was out and about, not simply left to return to his former wild-child self in the north pasture.
"This is Dar." I said to Melissa. "He's the one that --" But I was crying after just those few words and couldn't say anything more. I did know this day would come; it would be part of the process of giving Dar back. (I can't say letting him go, not tonight.) I knew that I would be doing something somewhere at the fair and before long there would go Dar carrying someone on his back, someone not me.
I have loved Scout since the day I got her; I still do. That love came from the place of not having a horse for 20 years. You love getting the horse as much, if not more, as the horse itself. I love Dar differently, though, very differently. I'm still trying to understand it. Some of what welled up in me tonight was the sharp hurt of how much I hoped for me and that horse. I had such hopes for him. I lusted after him in a way, felt such a blunt-force love for him, a connection from the gut. It shocked me to see him with someone else, and the grief of losing him hit me once again.
None of the jousters doubt my love for him. They see it in his fine health, his changed way of moving, his new headset. Jack, relaxed on Dar's back, smiled and murmured his sympathy. He's an 18-year-old boy who believes in his ability to make Dar perfect. And maybe he's right. He made it look easy. That's part of what I saw, part of what pushed me to tears. Why couldn't it have been that for me, someone so much better suited to give Dar a good life?
Melissa put her arm around me. "Talk me out of it," I said. In the moment, she did, enough to get me through the worst of it. "Remember the bucking," she said. Not too long ago, I learned Dar's early history. It was almost accidental, revealed unwittingly during a casual conversation, but left the hairs on the back of my neck standing. Bucking has been a part of Dar since before the jousters got him, never mind me.
It will take some time for me to reconcile myself to the loss of Dar. There will be further blows and more raw emotion. I tell myself Just get through it however you can, one piece at a time. I think I'm being mature about that, not hiding from my emotions but not seeking them out, either. I'm just there, and sometimes there Dar is. But here's my fear. What if the absolutely wrong thing to do was give up on him? I just feel haunted by that possibility tonight, too tired after a long day.
It was really hard to see him.