Rabbit Time

Christine F. Wagner
Rabbit Time
I'm floating!
A tingling under the breastbone, in the belly and legs.
I remember how once as a child I had to be flown down from the mountain with a helicopter. Torn ligaments. That's how it feels to glide on the gondola.

I concentrate on my breathing. And wait.

Now! Now the view opens all around. Above and below lose themselves, the colours – clear. And my lungs gather every gram of oxygen. Silence. Only the rumble of my satisfied stomach can be heard. And a slight hum. Meadows, metre-high trees, here and there a house. A sea of sky. Small sheep-like clouds dance around up there.

My eyes see green. Have I arrived already at the mountain station? I forgot my jacket, so I need to wrap my arms around myself.

The air should be thinner here. I know what thick air is like. But how do I recognize that it is thin?

Looking back down. Land, everywhere land. South Tyrolean land. Looking up. Sky. Does it look different in South Tyrol? Straight ahead: the mountains of Merano. Their names are not written anywhere. The silence is visible. Only a far away sound of a motor penetrates my ear. In front of me a large hotel. So that is the difference between inconspicuous and invisible. Integrated and embedded in meadow, forest and mountain it can hardly be recognized. Sovereign without being dominant. Glass. Wood. Loam. I dream of a banquet on an elegantly set table with an exquisite wine in pleasant company. My view without any bounds. Nobody noticing how it drifts off into the distance. Maybe even all the way to Africa.

I stand with rapt amazement. All this nature, my city eyes cannot get enough of all the trees, the summer meadows, the crosses on so many unfamiliar mountains, the toy houses below in the valley. My gaze roams from here to there. There are even rabbits here! A red-brown one hops through the scene; eagerly he searches for the open range.

Through the window I can just barely see the back end of the rabbit John, whose care was imposed upon me and who now in spite of the rain is enjoying the backyard of the neighbour's garden. The window is open; it's chilly and I wrap my arms around myself. My ears are itching. As I take out the earplugs, the noise from the neighbouring main street glues itself onto my ear canals. The computer gives off a beep. The battery is out.

I call it an experience of nature and of culture. After a hectic work day with all its appointments, I treat myself to excursions. The internet offers a huge selection. I choose and right away I'm in New York City, on the Easter Islands or in the Sahara. This time I decided on mountains. Google brought me to the Vigiljoch. South Tyrol.

The doorbell rings. “Let's Dance”, my new cell phone ringtone, starts playing. The chair is uncomfortable; I need to buy a new one. My belly grumbles; is it really 7:00PM already? The refrigerator is empty. No one is at the front door. On my smartphone a picture of my mother is showing; I don't answer. The job from my boss sits in my stomach, the grumbler; is there enough time if I get up at dawn?

Out of my window, it is gray outside. Only a little bit of green in the courtyard. The rabbit!

I rush outside to find him feeding happily, devouring the last blades of grass.

John sits and gorges himself. Looks around and sniffs. His coat is smooth. Yesterday I gave him carrots and this morning he jumped all over me, I couldn't get around petting him and felt his fast breathing. His whiskers tickled my arm and his paws left dark prints all over my white shirt. I got to work late. Now he hops high, turns in mid-air and darts over to the wall that divides the courtyard, zigzags and rushes over to me. Fast. But he doesn't seem to be in a hurry. I bend over to him; my cell once again starts let's dance-ing and falls out of my pocket, but I don't pick it up because the rabbit is sitting on it and sniffing it. His whiskers tremble, his look appears concentrated his ears perked up high. I sit down in the wet grass. And the internet images from the Vigiljoch pour over me again and I hear the silence in spite of the noisy traffic.

Suddenly I feel the thin air, pleasantly cool and light, a breath that lies over me, touches me as gently as rabbit whiskers. Where is South Tyrol anyway?

It is a while later before my appointment calendar allows me to travel again. My fingers work differently than my head and quickly I'm back on the mountain.

I find new pictures, many new ones that inspire me. Breathing in the green, I surprise myself with the wish to fetch my hiking boots out of the storage closet, to pray at the vigilius chapel, to spend more time sitting in front of this computer and making myself happy with the beauty of this area.

John is still with me. I constantly catch myself sitting with him in the courtyard recalling the images from my virtual excursions. Instead of working, recognizing appointments, earning money - for my new apartment in the best location.

I imagine sitting with him in a meadow strewn with flowers everywhere, high up on the mountain. Then I lay down beside him in the yard and observe the world from below. What does the South Tyrolean sky really look like?

John sits, eats and cleans himself. What does he even do all day long? Nowadays I am often sitting in the grey courtyard, recently I have also begun to eat more regularly and I love washing the heat off my skin! When John looks at me with his googly eyes, I stare back. Who will blink first? Years ago my sandbox friends and I were specialists at this game.

Today I call my colleagues at work friends. That no one seems to notice my late-coming and early-leaving bothers me more than it surprises me.

Every evening, after John has gotten his carrot, we both go on a new discovery excursion. I read about discoveries of flint stone that indicate prehistoric settlements on the Vigiljoch and I recognize the Rose Garden on many pictures. At the hardware store I search for larch wood, on the internet I order mineral water from Merano. Spring water from Vigiljoch. I drink it in the garden and share it with John.

My boss asks me if I have fallen in love.

After that I buy a transport container for rabbits, reserve a train ticket online and buy some medication against motion sickness. After all, what if the gondola rocks more than the helicopter?

Translated from German by Shan Wardell

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