Rabbit Hour

I thought about the rabbits to distract myself as I drove; I would get to see the rabbits.

We had long ago stopped looking in this part of town. But the city aquatic complex was far enough away from where the loss had been anyway that it felt safe once I got to the sports fields, arrayed like pasture. The days were getting shorter, I usually didn’t get to the pools now until the enormous halogen towers were already on, though the sky was still peachy with everything else in shadow.

It took so little distance from the house to not feel anymore like I was someone who needed to be starting medication. It would be easy. I could cancel the next appointment; all that would take was another few embarrassing texts.

I avoided the men on the way back to their cars, sagging in their swim trunks. At that hour the parking lot didn’t feel unsafe, but it still looked like a place that looked like a person could be unsafe. The sense, from where? The movies or something, that a places that looked like that were where you were in danger.

The receptionist who took my five dollars didn’t recognize me without my mom standing next to me. My mom and I, who looked like the older and newer models of the same woman.

The receptionist took my folded bill, and found me in the computer, chewing on her lip. She had good makeup on, and the same logo-ed jacket as the bored lifeguards. I would have guessed she was in high school, though if I’d seen here somewhere else I wouldn’t have known her age. She looked like the twenty-two year old actress who played a high school girl in the shiny show I was watching, about teenagers doing drugs. Her makeup looked like she took beautiful photos over herself, and that she’d never been overweight. I imagined what her Tinder would look like.

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Before I had come to go swimming, I had changed my profile photo, because it had seemed like everyone on there was ugly and frightening. But probably it wasn’t that the town was so bad, but that the algorithm must have brought me down a few notches.

In the earlier photo I had on a big puffy winter coat and glasses, my feet planted wide apart. In my face I could see what a great day I’d had, when the photo was taken, looking at the person behind the camera with love in my eyes on a cold street in a small town other than this one. I looked happy.

But I didn’t look sexy. Would I have swiped right on that confident person standing with her feet wide apart, looking like I knew I would inherit a kingdom? No. Even I wanted the look of the other kind of princess, the one who knows she’s valuable and about to be sold.

Alone I took a hundred photos of my face, adjusted the lights in my room, and took a hundred more. They all looked good as little thumbnails next to each other, but in each picture on its own I could see that my eyes were sad. When I tried to smile it got worse, the look I’d been avoiding in certain other women’s profiles. If I saw sadness was about to break through a face, I passed it by.

You think when you’re a teenager that you’re never gonna turn into that, one of the slumped adult just making do as best they can.

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It seems like four photos and six sentences shouldn’t be able to contain all the complexities of a person. But it did, somehow. For example, when someone’s bio said, “these six sentences and this photo can’t contain all the complexities of a person,” I could tell that it had. Mine said, “want to get coffee?”

Finally one of the pictures I took of my face looked somehow sleek rather than sad, an accident of angle and lighting where you couldn’t see anything about me from my features, with a cascade of hair; enough of the right data points to be sexy.
Just the single photo, and within the hour, there were more pictures of men in suits, with six-packs, and with boats suddenly mixed in, and pretty women with good filters on, and what seemed like fewer car dealership guys and lumpy faces looking bleary in the flash.

But even then, it was always grotesque to look at that many different people in a few minutes. Especially the men who didn’t know how to objectify themselves, leaving folded chins and the blurred glass of their eyes, the grainy pixilation of upped-contrast veins in gym mirrors; as if none of us knew how to warp our images into anything except what men wanted them to be. Like video game characters, the males hulking brutes and the women creamy and hairless. Or they hid their faces behind expanded emoji and blurs and neck-downs, leaving just the folds of flesh and t-shirt. I didn’t understand why they were afraid, ashamed?

But when they didn’t know how to hide properly behind posing and lighting, it saved me from them. It was better that so many didn’t know how to hide the way I was trying to hide.

I didn’t know what anyone on Tinder would have looked like if they had known how to try to look the way I wanted them to look. I didn’t even know what I wanted them to look like.

Maybe if they had done it for me they would look like the snapchat filters where everyone was a cartoon animal, skin like pudding. No one wanted women with snapchat filters on their faces, but no one wanted them without it either.
Even me. When I came across another women’s profile who had come to it with honest rawness–intelligence in her face, the skin around her eyes faintly creased, pictures of her backpacking and dirty–even I didn’t want it, couldn’t want it, even though if you asked me what I wanted I would have said exactly that.

I looked back at the picture of myself in the poofy winter coat. No one wanted it, and so it gave me nothing. I switched my photos, and put a filter on the new one to change the colors.

The pools outside were glowing, as they always were. The sky getting dark didn’t effect the blue-blue water. And there were the rabbits. On the fake-looking grass, munching away. And then rocking in their strange rabbit walk to sip chlorinated water from the edge of the children’s pool. Solar lights in the landscaping made the whole place look like a well-lit Eden.

I wondered if the rabbits cared that they had no night, just a bright day, and a perpetual twilight. They had everything that a wild rabbit needed: grass and water and damp dark landscaping with wide leaves to hid under, and perpetual twilight. But twilight was their hour anyway, now they had more of it.

I imagined the things that came and chased them were human children, clumsy and slow. The rabbits were used to it now. You could get really close to them before they would bolt.

Did the rabbits know they lived in rabbit heaven, I wondered, or were they just as scared when they were spooked as their leaner kin elsewhere?

I felt lapine myself, swimming with a kickboard with just my nose out of the water. But I liked to put my eyes right at the waterline, where I could see the fake pool color and the extinguished sunset still reflected like printed silk.

I squeezed my stomach underwater. Since I’d lost weight, the skin pinched there weirdly, like a deflated balloon. It didn’t show up in photos; I had to take it in my hand before it deformed and mottled, and you could see how much of it there once had been.

I’d seen horrible videos coming up on pornhub recently, taken entirely in snapchat. Someone’s hairless vulva made all the more creamy, the penis weirdly mollified and smooth. I wanted to know what it meant that we had all collectively arrived at this place, though I couldn’t guess.

By the time I got out of the pool, I had five messages. Waiting at the light, the slivers of passing headlights passed over the hood of my car like sparks.

You’re hot. You have a pretty face. So you’re bi? You could have a three-way with us. What are you up to tonight? You should put up more pictures.

There were blocks upon blocks of neighborhoods over there that I’d walked through when we were still looking, when it hadn’t been so many days yet that we’d had to give up. I had left pain all over there, blotting out whole areas I was now half-avoiding on the route home.

Everything had already happened, we had already searched everywhere. There was nothing more to be done.

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Before breaking up, my ex and I had housesat for someone who had a small pool, with a light you had to turn on yourself when it got too dark. He had gotten out of the water first, fumbled with the Bluetooth speaker to the soundtrack of a movie we had just seen.

And it was all still so sad, but it had made it feel better to dance slowly in the water, pretending I was just moving, until he said it looked just like dancing, and then I was dancing, dragging my fingers so they left smooth waves behind them.

I had always thought he was so pretty, but just out of the light of the pool he looked like a monster watching me. Just the wide shape of him, and the garden behind. I felt like an animal that was beautiful to be looked at. I felt wrong for feeling like that, and for liking it.

I had left for feeling like that. That pool had been so shallow, only up to my chest until the deep end.

“It will just sand the rough edges off,” the new psychiatrist had said, as if I was a piece of driftwood being shaped into décor.

How quickly was I supposed to bring that up if I went on a date with a stranger? I am a person in the process of having my rough edges taken off. You may find me more fun in four to six weeks. I could pretend until then.

You look like a fucking bitch, the first of the five messages said.

Yeah you too buddy, I wrote back. He unmatched before I could hit the button first, which felt like I had lost a small battle.

Laugh it off. How funny it was how little it took for violence to drip out of my screen. Maybe I could have turned it into a joke, somehow.

I hated that it made me feel bad, my heart beating faster just to think about it. I knew assholes exist. Why do I still care? This isn’t something worth caring about, I told myself.

The internet said that anti-depressant’s main negative symptom was “emotional blunting,” and that only half the people who reported it said it was a bad thing.

The internet said there were three-hundred and five breeds of domestic rabbits in the world. Wikipedia didn’t have images of all of them.

The air was just cold enough, the outdoor shower just far enough away to make me shiver by the time I got there. I got cold so easily now. The water ran across my scalp, getting warmer, until it was warm enough, and then delicious. The palm trees sounded like glossy magazine pages.

The municipal pool was deep everywhere, since it was only for adults. The kids had their own special pool, set into the concrete so even the rabbits could reach it to drink.

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I turned off the water. There were two rabbits on the grass, jaws moving. The grass made them look so cute, like they weren’t real animals. As I got closer, one of them froze. The other one kept chewing. When I got a little closer, they both froze. Run, I thought. Why don’t you run?

They ran, but not very far. I walked away from the light with my flip-flops going slap, slap, slap, my shadow stretching in front of me.

First it was just my shape on the concrete, and as I got farther away it lengthened first into a fashion model, and then even father. The outline of a glorious, dripping Amazon, which stretching even father from that, until I became a ribbon of a dream-walker, sliding over the land, looking down from a great distance.🌋

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E. J. is a writer living in California.

E.J. has written 1 article for us.

3 Comments

  1. I’m way late to this, but it’s beautiful. Hope you write more… it felt like a teaser for a novel I’d like to read.

    Also: “Or they hid their faces behind expanded emoji and blurs and neck-downs, leaving just the folds of flesh and t-shirt. I didn’t understand why they were afraid, ashamed?”

    …it’s because they’re cheating/looking to cheat.

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