Sunday, July 24, 2011
We met again many years after that initial incident, in a pub on main street. His fur was matted and dirty and one ear seemed to have gone floppy, but it was none other than him, the same one that I had encountered on a fateful spring morning 4 years ago.
He was looking worse for the wear, it’s true, but I couldn’t have looked much better, save for the symmetry of my own audio sensory perception devices. That is to say, that my ears were still rightfully positioned on either side of my head. I had lost a good deal of hair from my crown though, and what was left was streaked with silver. Aging prematurely and at an accelerated rate, I had made great progress towards the picture of a ruined man forged under the anvil of stress. This was, without a doubt, an unwholesome process of deterioration catalyzed by the incident itself.
Forget Harvey, the untouchably kind and fortunate Mr. Dodson. In this world that I inhabit, when you tell people you’ve seen a six foot rabbit, the shit really hits the fan. My wife, for starters, left me.
Which is why I was in a pub on main street on July 4th, our anniversary, intent on drinking myself into oblivion. It had seemed like such a good idea at the time, marrying on the national independence day, because of the fireworks and the general atmosphere of merriment.
Now of course it meant that the day was twice as hard to forget and impossible to blot out, unless I was in a coma. It would seem that the holidays are hard on all kinds of unstable idiosyncratic characters, because there he was too, slumping over the counter, nose twitching under the meager sallow light. The fierce stature he had accumulated in my memory was diminished by that posture, by the whimpering of another nearby drunk, by the way he demanded “another tin and gonic” and only sniffled when the barkeep in his white apron shook his head and said, “You’ve had enough fella.”
But I was saying that after we met that first time, (if you can call it a meeting), after he more or less threatened me, ( I say more, he says less), my jellybeans weren’t the only thing that went to hell in a hand basket. After my wife, I lost my teaching job, naturally, and went on the road as a traveling encyclopedia salesman.
Not a big deal, all that time hopping along dusty trails, because my talk of an enormous rabbit, and the money I had borrowed to pay for therapy, and the phobia of eggs that made me a hard person to break bread with, left me emotionally estranged from even the most devout of my family and friends. It’s funny how an issue like that can snowball.
For example I’d gotten into the habit of removing pages containing certain verses from every Gideon's bible in the motel rooms that I frequented as part of my new and dying profession. Matthew 27:50-53, John 11:25-26, Romans 1:4-5, anything that might be read from the pulpit on a certain Sunday in spring.
I found that the harder I looked, the more I would find, until I was looking over pages as though they were word searches and letters from separate words contained in descending lines began to spell out the messages that I feared most; hidden verses about the Leporidean sons of Yaldabaoth.
I couldn’t sleep until I’d purged these books of such nightmares and had hidden the unwholesome pages in the bottom of a wastebasket beneath emptied cartons of Chinese take out. There were plentiful nights of monstrous discovery to leach the fear of Wikipedia, unreachable quotas, and insufficient commissions from my consciousness by dawn.
In retrospect, it is no mean feat that I avoided formal institutionalization during this dark chapter of my existence. It was a depraved shadow life that I led, a life which took its root in that brief encounter in a shiny past many years before I found myself once again face to face with that improbable individual, this time inside of a small pub on Main Street.
Every city, every town everywhere has a Main Street. I have come to believe that by some mystical power each of these may act as a portal to any other Main Street so that a person could travel from one city to the next, state to state, coast to coast without ever leaving Main Street. Whether you really had or hadn’t, you wouldn’t know the difference, because they all look essentially the same.
So I will simply say that the pub was on Main Street and that was where I found him, by accident, at around 6pm on a July 4th.
He was there when I came in from the heat, a wall of air conditioned air paralyzing me momentarily while my eyes adjusted to the dimness. For this reason, I was standing just within the door when my sight became clearer and fell upon the abysmal figure of that individual whom I had been simultaneously eluding and pursuing for 4 years.
I knew him right away and I felt the old fear. It made me hesitate. I considered going back out the way I had come. But in the end I decided to face him.
I bowed my head and, avoiding eye contact, took the seat beside him. If he recognized me at all he gave no sign of it. “What are you drinking Mac?” the barman asked and I ordered whiskey. I breathed in the odor of his grimy gin soaked fur and moved my fingers anxiously over the bar top, unable to turn my gaze on him.
I had relived that first meeting in memory countless times and had tried to play it differently, cooler, braver, standing my ground. I had also imagined this, a second encounter in which I could redeem myself, maybe in a bout of fisticuffs.
I slammed the shot and let the bartender pour me another. Then I turned to the hiccuping rabbit at my side and asked,
“Do you remember me?”
He gazed blearily at me, weaving on the barstool.
“You threatened to hide an egg under me 4 years ago.” I told him.
His eyes widened a little and rolled around in his head as he mumbled something in what I presumed was Gaelic. Then he flung an arm around my shoulder and said,
“I hate the bleedin 4th of July, don’t you? Pie eating. Who the fig wants to eat pie? And all that noise.” he sighed heavily.
Leaning on me he launched into another attempt at little bunny foo foo.
This was not at all the frightful leering beastie I had remembered or imagined. It was he that I had met 4 years ago, the patch of black fur at the tip of his left ear was unmistakable. But he was not as monstrous as my mind had made him.
Here at last sat the source of my nightly terrors, just one more Joe drowning away the indignities one suffers through the course of trying to earn a living.
I imagined, for the first time, that long ago morning from his perspective. I saw myself as one of those who in my own present profession made an already embarrassing job all the harder. I saw myself in him.
Again and again he tried to sing verses of little bunny foo foo until they devolved into the gibberish of slurred speech and absent mindedness. Despite myself, I joined in and found that I knew all the words.