Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Year of the Rabbit

The stairs to the basement creaked loudly.  The light switch at the top had stopped working earlier that year so the light had to be turned on at the bottom.  Jin had been meaning to fix it for months, Danielle too nervous to walk downstairs in the dark while she was pregnant, avoiding all trips without Jin leading the way.  He cursed himself for waiting so long as he stumbled down in the dark carrying the heavy and awkward glider. 

“There are always miracles.”

It was the year of the rabbit.  Danielle didn’t believe in signs or God or fate, but Jin did.  He prayed to both the Christian God and to his ancestors every day since finding out about his son.  She called him old-fashioned.  He could picture his son, James, a strong and handsome and funny young man.  Her due date was on Easter.  She had chosen the name for her father.  He liked it because it was the name of Jesus’s most beloved disciple.

“He is a fighter...”

There were dozens of bags from Danielle’s most recent shower.  He set the last of them down in the corner of the basement, overflowing and haphazardly filled with blankets and onesies and crib sheets and diapers.  He began with the bedroom because he knew it would take the longest, and there was very little time. 

“…but we want you to be prepared.”

He moved on to the kitchen.  He couldn’t decide if he wanted to put the champagne that had been chilling in the kitchen’s refrigerator into the one downstairs, or allow it to come back up to room temperature, or throw it away altogether.  The checklist in his head was getting crossed off, one room after another.  He found the box for the breast pump and the Baby Bullet broken down and folded behind the washer.  He reassembled them and carefully placed the equipment back in their boxes.  Danielle had given him such a hard time when he came home with the Bullet.

“He isn’t even going to be able to eat solids or baby food for months.” Jin remembered their small fight perfectly. 

Why did you buy that?”  They were folding all of the recently washed baby clothes they had been given in the basement, when suddenly Danielle let out a little “Oh.” 

He remembered her looking down and then up again, her face sheet-white.  She looked so scared.

“We never really know why things like this happen.”

He scanned the house once more, looking for all traces and triggers.  He grabbed the What to Expect When You’re Expecting book from her nightstand, leaving nothing in either of the bedrooms.  As he turned to head back downstairs, he noticed the overnight bag sitting by the front door, forgotten in their haste.  He slung it over his shoulder and headed down.

“I would give him about a week.  His liver is no longer responding.  His organs are beginning to shut down.”

Danielle would be home tomorrow.  She hadn’t spoken since they had taken his small body away, all 800 grams of him, just under two pounds.  Jin had tried to comfort her, praying silently to whomever would listen, but she would not be consoled.  Her eyes staring empty, her mouth set.  The tears never stopped streaming down her cheeks and into the soft creases between her neck and chest and engorged and useless breasts. 

“Sometimes these things just happen.”

After coming back downstairs for the last time, Jin sat down in the glider, surrounded by everything they had bought and been given and made in preparation for their first and only son.  He began rocking slowly back and forth when he noticed a small gray rabbit lying face down on the floor.  It must have fallen out of one of the bags.  He remembered buying it a few weeks earlier, gently placing it in the corner of James’s crib.

“Lay your hands on him and let him know you are there.”

He got up and walked towards the toy.  Picking it up, his breath began to shorten as he felt the softness of its ears and arms and legs, reminding him of the gentle blonde fuzz all over his dying son’s body.   He squeezed his eyes shut and clutched the rabbit to his chest, sucking in a shallow and sharp breath and then letting out an anguished sob.  His head hung low, a stabbing pain shooting behind his right eye.  He started wringing the rabbit’s body, twisting it in opposite directions.

“He can hear your voice.  The ears are some of the first things to develop.  Talk to him.”

He threw the rabbit with all of his might.  Silently it fell to the floor, as if caught by something invisible, too light to carry the weight Jin needed.  The unimpressive result of this violence enraged Jin.  He turned around and picked up the glider and heaved it at the entertainment center.  It crashed into the TV and dented the wall deeply.  He moved on to the boxes and bags, swinging them in every direction.  Onesies with “Mommy and Daddy Love Me” and “Little Rascal” stitched on the front, blue bibs and tiny hats and swaddlers and pacifiers falling all over the floor.   He grabbed the bottle of champagne he had decided to leave out to warm, and hurled it against the wall near the stairs.  It hit the switch and the light shut off, leaving him in complete darkness.
“He isn’t in any pain.”


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