I don’t own a shovel. Living in an apartment in Brooklyn, there isn’t much use for one. Sure, there are houseplants that require the occasional repotting, but soupspoons seem to work just fine.
You cannot dig a grave with a soupspoon. I have watched my father dig many graves throughout my life. He dug one for Wolfie, a Husky who died of a bowel obstruction when I was four. All crunchy and metallic sounding, he dug a hole into the ground, which he vomited into either from the heat or from grief.
“My Rabbit is dead” somehow fell out of my mouth at the neighbor’s door on the second floor of our building. I don’t remember walking up the stairs, but I do remember the faux leather couches in their apartment, how their kitchen windows faced the backyard. The woman in the doorway was someone I was familiar with but had never spoken to. I have held the door for her. She has reminded me to latch the door to the backyard. Based on the way that the mail is arranged on the stairwell, I believe her name is Karla. Karla is a sturdy woman who does her gardening on Saturday mornings with her daughter. Sometimes she accidentally sprays my bedroom window with the water hose. Karla is the kind of woman who is prepared for anything. She has one of those Zywiec umbrellas you see on the decks of sports bars. She also has a shovel.
In my backyard there are four Hydrangea bushes alongside a chain link fence. There are ten tomato plants in raised beds lining all four sides. I did not bury my rabbit in the raised beds with the tomato plants. If you dig into a raised bed, who knows what kind of seedlings you might destroy. There might be perennials planted deep, and I don’t know how long it takes for a cardboard box to break down into soil.
The cardboard box I used to bury the rabbit was from Monina’s Deli grocery. I do not know the names of the employees but they have given me the following:
- A glass pitcher for a birthday party
- An aluminum casserole dish to roast a lamb leg
- Video footage of myself being robbed for the police
- A cardboard box to bury a rabbit
“You need a box for a rabbit?”
The main guy at the deli eased out from behind the counter, crossed the store and pointed to a grey and white cat grooming itself on the floor in front of the seltzer. I call him the main guy because he opens the deli in the morning. He comments on my love of coconut water. He once asked if I was Latina. I thought this was a joke.
“Like this size?”
I eyeballed the cat. The rabbit was a little smaller, but I suppose having a bigger box is better than not. The cat rolled around, licking its hindquarters. It tossed its head around like a jerk. Rabbits don’t really move like that. They aren’t lazy and overindulgent in their movements. They are trained exhibitionists with regal poses and specific demands.
After bringing my cardboard box and my borrowed shovel inside, I sat on the couch with the rabbit in my lap. He was too warm to bury. Dead things are supposed to be cold and he was not cold, nor would his eyes close like they do in the movies. The doctor rests his hand on the forehead of the deceased and closes both eyes in one downward swoop – somehow granting death. I tried to close my rabbit’s eyes but each time they would just slowly open.
With one hand I reached for my phone to compose a text message to my ex boyfriend.
Can you come over? My rabbit is dead. I have to bury him
Sorry for the heavy shit. No one else is around right now
I don’t want to do it alone.
Sharing a bed with a rabbit is unlike sharing a bed with a cat or a dog, or another person. The rabbit does not appear weak. When a rabbit is sick it does not show symptoms until it is nearly dead. They require attention and close observation, asserting their dominance by seeming helpless. This is both annoying and satisfying. They don’t really sleep through the night either.
Before the rabbit was buried, at night I would unlatch the door, open the cage, and sweep up loose hay that may have been scattered throughout the day. That’s not true. I only swept the hay once a week.
Then I would scroll through the day’s text messages and respond carefully. Through the year’s text messages, maybe typing a response into the box, but never hitting send.
I would reposition my body to face the rabbit, who would be tugging at my clothes, demanding attention. Demanding food. The rabbit ate better than most people. He was given delivery salads, customized to his preferences. He was fed high quality multigrain crackers – the kind where you can see the individual grains protruding. It made me feel better to feed him this way. He would have eaten the wall given the chance. It seems I always treated the rabbit better than I ever treated myself, but I guess that’s the point.
Leaving the rabbit to eat, I would smoke cigarettes in front of my apartment. The deli employees would be closing up. When the main guy would pull the metal gate, grinding all the way down, I would go back inside. And without turning on a light I felt my way back into the tiny bedroom. The rabbit lounging on the sheets always seemed irritated around this time. As if it were being disturbed during a brief resting period before its nightly routine of chewing up the baseboards. If it wasn’t the baseboards it was the cage. Continual biting, begging to be let out. The sound entered through the base of my spine. If there were no other people in the apartment – I could have slept through it. The anxiety of waking others is far worse than the sound of a rabbit gnawing through old wood. There was once a fear of lead poisoning, but after six years of ingesting questionable things like pizza, record sleeves, parts of old books, and electrical wires – he seemed to be indestructible.
Though when he was calm, he would sit close, gazing beyond me, taking on the characteristics of a deer– small, naïve brown eyes, always alert, and always positioned like Durer’s Hare.
Now, how do you not sleep with a rabbit? The first night I didn’t. I went to a friend’s house, smoked a lot of pot, and shared a bed with an old calico cat. I have since decided that cats are disgusting. The constant crying and the way they rub their snot-ridden noses on your face is hardly comparable to the noble disposition of a rabbit. A rabbit would die before it let you believe it needed you.
On the second night, after putting my fitted sheet on backwards and ignoring it, I crawled into bed. Nothing to adjust. Nothing to move. Nothing to hear. Nothing to do with my hands. Nothing to talk to. Nothing to feed. Nothing to be aware of. Nothing to unplug. Just quiet.
I wandered into the backyard to sit on the new grave. Grass was already starting to shoot up from the ashy soil. Through the upstairs window I could see Karla’s silhouette standing in her kitchen under the orange 50-watt, undressing in front of her new husband. Everything was moving forward.
The rabbit didn’t need me. It’s strange really, the one sided dependency on animal companionship. It feels like an absurd performance at times. He won’t benefit from the Best Friends Forever charm that was placed in the cardboard box. It will just sit there in the dirt, after he has subsided into the roots of the Hydrangea bush.