My Mister Rabbit
He was never the husband type. Our first date had ended with us face down in dirt, giggling our noses red. The first ring he ever gave me was made of twigs and leaves, intertwined with grass and specs of dirt. He slipped it on my finger, leaving traces of wilderness through my hair and clothes. Our meals were often wild berries and delicate leaves, which he picked off at sun rise with the morning dew still clinging on. Well, his meals. But sometimes I’d steal a fruit or two.
As I bite down on the berries, the juices would spill onto my lips. Almost like blood, it’d immediately stain my lips and trickle down my neck.
“You look sweet.” He’d say, a little awkwardly. As if to make up for the comment, he’d then lean in for a kiss. When he pulled away, I often wondered if my cheeks were the same rouge as his lips.
We met in spring, and summer soon followed. It was too hot in Wisconsin to play, so we’d doze off in the shades under the trees. Sunlight would flicker through the leaves, leaving spotted golden highlights on us. It was then I had started calling him a little nickname. Mister Rabbit.
Full of nature, innocence, and life. Whenever I called him so, he’d reply by tapping me on the nose. I had always secretly hoped he’d call me his Mrs Rabbit, but I had time. I could wait.
I knew that the harsh life of modernity never suited him. Screens were strings, as concrete was obsolete; songs must come from birds, never CDs or record players. He had explained it to me with a twinkle in his eye. This was the same twinkle in his eye when he was at a loss for words, as he was awkward in the dorky way. The same twinkle when slang slips from my vocabulary. He was proud to be different. Being an outcast was never something he took shame in.
He would try and be romantic, recite the poems scribbled on rocks with charcoal, but fail as he could never place the right words in his sentences. My Mister Rabbit would then look at me and tell me to stay in school, to not be like him. It was summer, and I was in my twenties, I’d remind him. He’d make another joke or so, brush off the accident. I had realized then that he no longer understood anything of the life outside his forest.
We met through his mother, who I met at work. I had graduated for many years, but my Mister Rabbit didn’t understand that, and I had never cared to explain. The old woman, fragile and delicate, was always the tough ball in the care home. She wouldn’t stay still. Broken bones never swayed her climbing trees. She didn’t know how to read, and didn’t want to learn. I would climb up the branches with her, and she’d smile at me like we were childhood friends on the town’s playground, grinning about some prank we would pull soon. I liked her. She knew when to look, and when to look away. We were fast friends.
In the winter, she stopped climbing trees. It was cold, she said. But we both knew the real reason. Days later, she stopped breathing. Before she did, she had asked me to go see her son. When I asked for his whereabouts, shame flushed her voice. She stumbled over her words, like a little girl who had lied stealing the last piece of candy. She had lost him, she said. With my questioning gaze, she revealed that she was once married.
Marriage was just not for her. She wanted to do whatever it was she pleased, and a son and a husband tied her down. So she ran away. She thought that she would go back weeks later, and nothing would have changed. It obviously didn’t go that way, she said quite bitterly. The young one couldn’t sit still. He ran too. In her husband’s eyes, she was a cheating whore, and so he left too. And thus, she returned to an empty little hut, with the fireplace cold for a long, long, time.
I eventually tracked him down, near a camping site yards away from Main Street. When I saw the way his hair messily tumbled down his shoulders, I lost the words I had originally planned. “Do you want to go on a date?” I had asked, completely forgetting what I was there for. That was how I met my Mister Rabbit.
Fall came. When he had once again asked me about school, I made up my mind. I would bring him into my world. I was sick of parking tickets beside the river. The next time I saw him preparing logs, I stopped him.
“Winter is harsh.” He said, unsure of why I had interrupted an important routine. “We need them.”
I explained how heaters work. The impatience in his eyes were obvious. He clearly still rejected the idea of returning to society. I pleaded and begged, and even threatened to leave. He wouldn’t budge.
The leaves on the trees went from green to yellow, yellow to orange, orange to rouge, and rouge to dead. Like us, I’d think. I thought that was the end of us. The hut we stayed in were often filled with dreadful silence. He refused to talk to me, as anything I said would be about leaving the forest. The night before the first snow, I cried.
“I want to be your Mrs Rabbit.” I said.
Through my tears, I saw him sit beside the fire, expressionless. “I love you.” I said. I didn’t get a response.
The snow fell the morning after. When I woke up, I realized that he had left. No logs. No fire. How would he survive? Eventually, I left the hut and went back to my normal routine. I had fallen into a strange rabbit hole, I told the ones who asked. People have doubts when you disappear after work and never have time to visit. No one believed me, but I knew what had happened, that was enough.
Weeks later, I saw him at a dinner party. You can imagine my shock. His hair was shorter, with glasses and a suit. When I saw him, I think I had almost weeped tears of joy. Before I saw the woman beside him with matching rings, that was.
I was confused and very much heartbroken. If he was willing to leave his forest, why for her and not me? If he was willing to marry her and be tied down with bounds of marriage, why for her and not me? He had glanced over in my direction, then smiled at me.
The rest was a bit of a blur. I don’t quite remember much with all the blood and screaming. But when I brought him back to my apartment, I had realized my mistake. This wasn’t my Mister Rabbit. He didn’t smell of grass and berries, nor campfire and morning dew. He was afraid of me, too. My Mister Rabbit was never afraid of me. When I brought back game, he’d tell me I did a good job. Albeit he never shared my meals with me, but he understood the cruelty of nature and what I had to do.
I had the wrong person. But how did I mistake another man for my love? I was quite disappointed, and had my dinner resentfully.
Eventually, I found him. He was in the little hut his mother left him in. When I went inside, he was clearly glad to see me despite not showing it. He even put food in the freezer for me. The meat was frozen, but I wasn’t one to complain.