There is a story that has haunted me for years. From a collection of contemporary writings by Japanese women, called Rabbits, Crabs, Etc. One of the title stories, “Rabbits,” is narrated by a woman who encounters a human-sized rabbit in the woods, follows it, and the rabbit tells her story.
We learn about the rabbit as a young girl. She and her father raise rabbits, to keep as pets but also to eat. Twice a month, they prepare a rabbit feast, which they eat separately from the other members of the family, who find this ritual barbaric.
The father grows ill. The daughter takes on more of the responsibilities of killing and preparing the rabbits. She enjoys the rabbit slaughter, and as her father becomes bed-ridden (the suggestion is that his illness is related to his gluttony) she begins killing the rabbits for pleasure. She stitches their skins together to make a rabbit costume. She fashions a mask of rabbit fur, into which she inserts glass eyes.
In the story’s gruesome climax, she bathes herself in rabbit blood, dresses in these rabbit skins and presents herself to her father (now near death) as a kind of tribute. In his shock and horror, he is stricken by the sight of her, and dies.
While I was away, the range of my emotions confused me. I found myself in an unfamiliar psychic landscape of exaggerated impulses that mimicked love, longing, intimacy.
What is the name of the bird that can imitate the sounds of fire engines and car alarms?
I visit with friends. I prepare meals or sometimes, we sit in restaurants beneath strings of tiny white lights and talk about how we never expected to find ourselves here, in this place – literal, metaphorical – where we are now.
We tend to the things that require us. We make our way.
Before he dies, in his terror and confusion at the sight of this human-sized rabbit, the father throws a glass pitcher at his daughter. The pitcher hits her in the face and shatters the glass she had sewn into the mask. A piece of glass pierces her eye.
For a time, she lives there, blind in one eye, eyesight growing weaker in the other, among the rabbits she raises.
M. gets home late from work and I spend the hour prior to his arrival in a low-grade, persistent anxiety over his safety. The roads are slick from the wet snow that’s been falling all day.
At the house down the block, a transition home of sorts, fire trucks and ambulances gather. My windows glow red. I peek through the curtains, but see nothing but trucks and uniformed men standing around on the snow-covered lawn. I pace. I send text messages.
The narrator looks for the rabbit again, some time later. Finds her fallen in her small house, a shard of glass protruding from her remaining eye. All around her, blind rabbits. Their eyes had been gouged out.
I am not sure what I had hoped to say. Where I anticipated that movements through memory might have carried me. These days, I find myself beneath a blanket of sadness, like the bare branches of trees under wet snow.
All through the night, snow clings to branches. Unmoving. Weighing them down.