Friday, March 30, 2012

The Rabbit Story (part two)

(Part one is here)

...Oh no. Oh no, oh no.

“Hey!” the Big Band Boy said, “I think he’s hurt!”

“Wait there!” she yelled, “I am coming up!”

They met in the stairwell. He was younger than she first thought. Her age, maybe 24 at most, with wavy brown hair, and a long pointed face with large brown eyes. He paused a second seeing her and in that instant she saw herself though his eyes; the shaved and dyed black hair, the thick black eye liner, pierced nose and the tattooed sleeves.

“It’s not my rabbit” she blurted out, gesturing down her hallway “my neighbor’s…”

“Can you get to it from your apartment? Or maybe a key… do you have a key?” he asked hurriedly. He’s as frightened as I am, she thought.

She shook her head, thinking. Poor Martin! What if he fell further? The bars around the fire escape were widely spaced; the fall would kill him, or worse. She shook her head again, hating the images shooting though her imagination.

“I think I can get to him from my window but…” he looked even more frightened. That took her off guard. “I am afraid of heights.” he said finally.

“I’ll get him.” She said, “yes, let me try… he knows me.”

She grabbed his arm which seemed to startle him out of his thoughts, and they both ran up the stained carpeted stairs to his apartment. The door was open and she could see the backyard lights out the window. It was nearly the mirror image of her own apartment, the linoleum kitchenette, a claw foot tub. All those details she took in as she went to his window.

It was higher up than she thought. She could make out the faint ghostly shape of the two pale lawn chairs far below in the grass. Sweat trickled under her bra down her back. She grabbed the iron railing and it moved slightly. It didn’t feel safe. Looking down she saw Martin’s ears twitch once, and he kicked the edge of the ladder going down, his feet slipping between the grating. She held her breath, and he was still again.

“It’s me Martin” she whispered, moving slowly, and consciously grabbing  each of the bars of the rusted metal railings. A slight breeze picked up, three stories above, she fought not to be completely terrified in the sudden movement of air. Martin, thankfully, remained still.

It felt otherworldly, or, more accurately, she felt outside of herself. Part of her brain screamed, I am not doing this! Another part screamed relentlessly NO over and over like some bad techno dance song. The adrenalin that began to flow through her made her knees buckle slightly, the rusted bolts holding the fire escape to the building entered her mind’s imagination in high detail.

She somehow managed to crawl down the steps to get to the narrow iron grated platform where Martin sat like an immobile loaf of white bread. I should say something, she thought.  I should say something, so I don’t scare him. “Mar-tin” she finally managed, her voice cracking. “hey baby, hey bunny. Baby bunny. Whatcha doin?…”

She sounded like a small child. She hated how she sounded. She fought to focus on that thought, strangely enough, she fought the fact that she was uncomfortably high up on a rusted bit of metal barely attached to a rotting and crumbling old building.  Her life was held aloft by a rusted iron facade.

Martin was frozen. She was temped to freeze as well. Bolts and heights and empty air and hard concrete filled her head like members of a hung jury. Biting her lip, she crouched next to him, and in one swift breathless motion, she grabbed him up to her chest.

In a moment of sudden energy, the frightened rabbit grunted, then kicked out. She felt his teeth hit her forearm, scrape against it rather than bite into it, his startlingly powerful back legs kicked her ribs, raked across her left breast and dug into her belly. It stung, but she barely felt it. She was as if frozen in time, standing in the dark, on the shaking fire escape, desperately trying to hold the insanely frightened animal to her chest.

So, Big Band Boy saved the day like a man from a movie. He had broken into Ginni’s apartment. Like a comic superhero, he had kicked in the door. He appeared, the hall light behind him radiating like a sunrise around him. Then he was just a hand reaching out to them in the rain. The very real and wet rain that fell with sudden cinematic thunder and lightning, a deluge of cold water running through her hair onto her scalp and down her neck and back. In seconds, she and Martin were inside. Shaking like an idiot she let the frightened animal in her scratched arms go on to the floor. Martin promptly bolted across the carpet, kicking like a demon and eventually racing into the bathroom, finally to disappear under the claw foot tub.

She was crying. She hated herself, but she still fell on her knees crying, she couldn‘t help it. Part of her was so embarrassed, and she hurt but she was relived at the same time, She covered her face in her hands choking back the sobs, still on her knees. Throbbing lines from the rabbit’s back nails cut across her chest, burning newly sharp and hot.

Big Band Boy stared awkwardly down at her on the floor with his dark brown eyes. The hair in his beard was reddish around the corners of his mouth. And then he smiled. The next minute he was on his knees and his arms were around her. She couldn’t stop shaking.

After a spectacular crack of lighting followed by epic rolling of thunder, all the lights went out. They heard Martin thump the linoleum floor in Ginni’s bathroom and Big Band Boy laughed. Soon they both were laughing, she laughed with the tears still hot on her cheeks, she laughed  in the arms of a stranger, on her housemate’s carpet, in the dark, the sound of rain hitting the windows like tapping fingers. The very thought made her laugh more, and a sudden cool wind blew through the apartments of the old house. The rabbit thumped again on the soft linoleum floor. The uneven breath of the Big Band Boy was hot against her neck.

Eventually, of course, the moment passed. Though it remained dark in the house, the street lights from across the street somehow remained on. Big Band Boy got up and closed Ginni’s apartment window, and they both went into the hallway, closing Ginni’s damaged door behind them.

“We should leave a note? Or something…” he trailed off, looking at her in the filtered street light that streamed through the hallway‘s one leaded window.

She felt bold. She felt drunk. It now rained heavily outside, blowing fresh cool air through the stagnant old house from the remaining open windows. They were now strangers who had broken into the neighbors’ apartment to save her rabbit. A rabbit who was now hiding under a clawfoot tub, angry about being picked up.

She almost laughed again but instead grabbed the brown eyed boy‘s arm again. She somehow led him into her apartment without being awkward or shy, the pink curtains turned purple in the blackout, curtains that were now moving against the storms’ air push through the screen like independent, abstract modern dancers.

In her room , alone in the dark, they were both were like new conjoined twins. “I’m Samantha” she blurted out like an idiot.

“My name is Henry” he said, not letting go of her arm. Then his arms were around her again and he was holding on to her as if to stop her falling apart,  or maybe just to keep her from falling at all.

“Adrenalin.” was all she could say, she could not stop herself from shaking. Until he kissed her.

At first startled, she then kissed him back, and somewhere in that heavenly eternity, the lights came back on with a plastic click. ‘Henry’ was the only thing left that she could get her mind around, ‘his name is Henry’.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Rabbit Story (part one)

She liked the lyrics but couldn’t stand the song. 

He played the record at least once a day. It was a record record,  a circular black vinyl pressed into a circle, played using a needle, on a machine the size of a microwave oven and twice as heavy. She could tell because of the dust crackles, the wavering voice, the warm scratch sound after the song was over and the needle was lifted up. The sound was watery thin, tinny and tentative. It had lots of horns and trumpets, and she hated trumpets. He always played it in the afternoon, never too late or too early, so she had no legal right to complain.

She knew the new tenant was a guy because he peed standing up. Her bed was next to the water pipes in the wall, she heard all the water moving through the old house. An old mansion in reality, four stories of luxury from the turn before the turn of the last century, since then divided into apartments in the middle of the last century. Some of the water pipes were original, leaded most likely and encrusted to the size of a pea inside. Much of the movement of water was in her dreams.

It was summer and it was hot, the mornings were unbearable when the sun hit the windows, until late afternoon when the big maple trees shielded the house and the breeze from the lake kicked in. She had dark purple drapes of heavy velvet covering the windows that had been bleached pink on one side from the sun. They were still thick enough to keep the sun out. She tolerated the pinkish light until she could afford something better. 

There was a round black river stone the size of a grapefruit propping her apartment door open. She collected black rocks; they were in stacks in the odd corners of her large one room. It may have been a nursery or mother in law room in its original design, but walls had been moved and removed, her small kitchenette shoved in an odd angled corner with the black and white linoleum leading to the oddly long and narrow bathroom with the claw foot tub. The apartment had high ceilings and a view to the overgrown backyard two stories below, which she liked a lot. The bottom floor was all one huge apartment occupied by a quiet older man who showered every morning at 5 am.

Looking up from her metal kitchen table she noticed a white rabbit in the doorway. He hopped over the stone doorstop into her room. Martin was Ginni’s house rabbit; they lived in the apartment down the hall. The third apartment on this floor was empty, and had been the whole year that she lived there. Ginni had moved in three months ago and was too friendly for her liking, but she liked Martin. He was huge, the size of a big tom cat, and all white, with great big pink ears and reddish eyes. Rabbits didn’t like to be picked up Ginni had told her when they first met. It was because they were prey animals, it was too frightening to them to be grabbed off the ground. 

Martin the rabbit went on his back legs and looked around her room.  He didn’t like carrots, she learned, but he did like paper. He hopped over to her coffee table and rubbed his chin on the corner, then the edge,  then he grabbed the postcard sitting on the top of the table, and ran out of the room. 

Moments later Ginni appeared. She was a small thin woman with short cropped purplish brown hair and vintage horn rimmed tortoise shell glasses. 

“I’m so sorry” she said, knocking tentatively on the already opened door.

“Come on in Ginni.” she replied, not looking up.

“Martin’s nibbled a bit off the corner” Ginni said, handing her the postcard. 

“No worries, I don’t mind” she told her,  accepting the postcard, “I like that he comes in here to take things” she smiled and looked up to let Ginni know it was true. 

When the woman left she wondered if Ginni had read the postcard. How can you not read a postcard? She didn’t care really. This one had a picture of a tropical beach, white sand and the token palm tree. It was from her sister, on some vacation with her rich husband again, saying what a fabulous time they were having. She tossed it into the recycling bin.

The song started up again upstairs. She starred at the old blue Smith and Corona typewriter in front of her that she had painted black with nail polish. Some of the polish had chipped so flecks of baby blue insisted on showing through in places. The ribbon was almost completely worn out from use. It still worked though, but anything typed came out faint gray with an occasional darker letter or number, like a random symbol generator. She did have an actual modern laptop, but something about the wire lath in the plaster walls of the old house made getting any sort of free wifi impossible. Plus, there was something real about the effort it took to hit the keys on the typewriter that gave it weight, kind of like the difference between a piano and a synthesizer.

She liked old things, odd things and dark things.  Like a crow she collected rusted metal pieces, hand cranked kitchen utensils, old glass marbles and vintage bell jars, along with all the black rocks. Many gathered dust on the non-working fireplace next to her black wrought iron bed. She hung her clothes on old farm implements nailed to the wall, and had  made a mobile out of rusted garden tools and hung it in the bath.

A loud scratching noise followed by silence came from above, then the creak of floorboards, and silence again. Relieved, she began typing again, the soft chewing clack of the keys hitting the paper was both visceral and satisfying. She was lost in the stories in her head, the weight of the words on the paper, only some time later to look up and see the page completely filled.

For some reason the afternoon breeze off the lake never kicked in, and it got hotter still. The iced green tea by her elbow had turned tepid and undrinkable as pond water. There was only one ice cube in the tray from the freezer, so she added it to her glass, and filled the ice tray.  The cold tap water was warm as well. She heard Ginni leave, talking loudly down the hallway on her cell phone about some restaurant she was meeting her friends at.  The footsteps faded on the carpeted wood stairs and the front screen door banged. The main front door must have been propped open with a cinder block by the downstairs tenant to get air in the house, because there was no familiar slam of wood in the old door frame.

Restless,  she moved the worn window curtain aside to try and encourage the movement of air into the room. She glimpsed the next door neighbor woman hanging blue and white sheets in the yard below, and could hear a small dog barking another yard over, hidden by scrawny lilac bushes. Their apartment shared yard was empty, except for a few plastic white lawn chairs becoming lost in the high green grass, fading to yellow in the dry summer sun. 

She plugged in the fabric corded stainless steel antique fan. It worked, but wasn’t very powerful, and only served to move the warm air around the small room like a convection oven. At least Big Band Boy upstairs was quiet. The whole house was quiet in fact, it was heavenly. 

The heat was like another presence in the room, an angry, bitchy and tiring one. She sat and stared at a fresh white piece of paper she just rolled into her typewriter, her head in her hands, thinking, but distracted. Her tea was tepid again, and she frowned. Giving up, she kicked the blanket off her bed and lay on the sheets, closing her eyes and listening to the rhythmic drone of the fan, and the sound of a sprinkler running in the front lawn three doors down. 

It was getting dark when she woke up. Someone had just shut off the shower upstairs with a metallic grind, and the washing machine was again running in the basement. It was just as hot as it was hours ago, and the air was still, heavy and oppressive. The sheets were damp and her gray tee shirt stuck to her back. Frustrated, she peeled off the shirt, then dug a black tee out of the laundry basket on the floor, clean but needing to be put away, and put it on. 

She washed her face in the kitchen sink, and heard a kitchenette faucet running upstairs. The cold water ran cold finally; enough water had gone through the ancient pipes of the house that this water was fresh from the cool pipes beneath the house.  She heard Martin the rabbit thumping on the floor, and wondered how he was doing in this heat. A bus went rumbling by on the street, or maybe it was distant thunder.

She was still groggy from her nap and the heat and did not feel like writing, so she closed her apartment door, and went down the stairs and into the back yard. There were no lights there except that which shone from the windows above, and the back door light of the neighbor’s house, whose dry sheets hung limp in the still air. She took a big breath, and exhaled slowly through her teeth, smelling cut grass, barbeque smoke and some flower she couldn’t place. 

Then she saw the fireflies. She blinked, thinking she imagined it, and saw two more. Fireflies in the city backyard she thought, it seemed magical. It was magical. She watched for more, and felt a small thrill each time one would light up. On and off they blinked, some drifted up high above the neighbors’ wood fences, on above the laundry lines and back towards her house. High up, she could see her window, and something white gleaming against the dark brick house.

She squinted. There was an old metal fire escape off Ginni’s window, going up the building like an articulated iron spider to the upper floors, and ending one story above. She tensed and looked harder. Ginni’s windows and her own were dark, and above them a man was leaning out his window looking down, blocking the light coming from his room. She stepped back into the tall grass.

“Hey!” he waved down at her. “Is that your rabbit?”

Her stomach dropped. Martin was on the fire escape, just below Ginni’s window. He must have pushed out the screen . He wasn’t moving much except his ears, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. She could see that one of the rabbit’s back legs appeared to have fallen through the metal grates of the fire escape. She was terrified and her hand went involuntarily over her mouth. Oh no. Oh no, oh no.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Past and Present Inspiration

Right around 1990 my friend Geneve took several photos of me using infrared film. These photographs have traveled with me over the decades and hung on every wall of every place I have lived in since then. Even in their worn state they have a special sort of inspiration to me.
I am often most inspired by my friends, and am blessed have some really talented ones.

Geneve is now a brilliant photographer in Maine. Check her out here -

More on infrared photography -