by Erika Walsh
Otto has had too much to drink. He is cradling a white bunny in his arms. Her nose is twitching and she is nibbling at his fingers. If this were a piece of classic literature, the bunny would symbolize something — like purity, or loss of innocence. Otto whispers, I will never hurt you like I hurt them. The bunny doesn’t know what he means. Otto touches the side of his face, only to find that it is not quite solid. He cannot remember how many (now empty) bottles it took for his blood to bend into ice and now slush, but there must be a number. The bunny has small black buttons for eyes that see everything. It makes Otto nervous to look at her.
Somewhere far away (or is it very close?) two people who may or may not be in love are sitting across the table from each other, an empty vase between them. The man used to fill the vase with flowers once a week, but now he does not, and so it is empty. Chloe, his supposed lover, rubs his ankles shyly with the toe of her foot. The man is slightly annoyed by this. His arms are crossed. He tells her, the vase is empty for a reason. One day, if there are any more days, she will forget about all of this (until it happens again).
Otto is crying into the bunny’s fur. He is thinking about his parents’ empty graves, about how they were rumored to have escaped on the backs of two grey hippopotamuses. But how can we be sure of anything? Otto wishes he knew how to pray.
Whatever do you mean by that, darling? She knows. Of course she knows that he does not love her. But how can she admit that she knows? He says, You know. Chloe whispers, But this cannot happen. Then she says it louder: This cannot happen. Her hands cradle the weight of her decision inside of them. Her belly is bursting, the half-life inside of her clenching its fists. She cannot quite decipher whether or not it is sobbing, the almost-child. She will never know, or care. Her baby’s first words will be look at me.
Otto presses his hands together and bows his head, chunks of skin dripping onto the kitchen floor. Otto thinks: now I will have to clean that up. He mutters under his breath: Our father who art in heaven. He pictures a mustachioed God, drinking whiskey for inspiration, mixing red and yellow paint together and scribbling anxiety-ridden lyrics on the back of a torn napkin. God, our father, is praying (to himself) that one day he will finally be depressed enough to call himself an artist.
Chloe is remembering her first date with the man. Did you hear about the two psychos who ran away on the backs of hippopotamuses? He had said. They’re probably drowning in the Amazon right now. Fucking psychos. Chloe had said, I don’t think there’s anything psycho about it. I think it’s romantic. If this were a piece of classic literature, all of the woman would symbolize something — like purity, or loss of innocence. The man she might have loved pressed his knuckles against her chin and whispered, I’d like to keep you. Now, Chloe always feels a slight chill, no matter how warm the room is, because she is kept.