(from A Forest Ten Feet Wide, Tokyo, 2013)
As you can imagine, it’s a terrifically delicate business. A challenge. To spend an entire evening at the neighbors’, across the table from the luminous red-headed wife, her blouse low-cut, her voice like drinking bourbon, her smile dazzling, a smile in which an invitation may or may not be concealed, her businessman husband at her side, overworked but affable, with the easy confidence of the incorrigibly successful, and their radiant girl-child, as bright and warm-hearted a child as ever lived. It’s a tremendous challenge, as I’m sure you can imagine, to sit there all night, apparently enthralled by their antics and exploits, their charm and cuisine, with my composure impeccable, my demeanor irreproachable, when in fact I don’t give a damn about any of them. Not a whit. I care only for their pet rabbit. The rabbit wears his resplendent brown fur in the style commonly referred to as “fluffy”. His name is Bunny. Bunny is five years old. Imagine having one’s own rabbit! He is the most adorable and beguiling creature I have ever in my life beheld. Could other rabbits possibly be like him? Bunny is the only rabbit I have ever been with. I mean that platonically, you understand. But other rabbits must not be so magnificent. Not like my Bunny. Because otherwise the news would be full of rabbits and people would stay home with their rabbit instead of spending their entire lives going here and there on the trains, staring all the time into their phones. Tokyo with a rabbit. Well, it just changes everything, doesn’t it? Here in Tokyo we have no animals. That’s not true. We have crows and cockroaches and dogs who wear shoes. A bunny rabbit in Tokyo is something downright revolutionary. No doubt this will knock the bottom out of the market for pet beetles. All night I remain at the neighbors’ table. My voice subdued, my expression rapt, my eyes where they ought to be: on the crudites, on the girl-child’s origami, on tops of the wife’s freckled breasts, composed even as my chest feels fit to burst and my heart is forever and always with Bunny, who is allowed to roam freely through the downstairs in the evening. Bunny prefers shadowed corners. It’s one of the things we share in common, Bunny and I. But now and then Bunny comes around to survey the perimeter, to visit the humans and make a show of his boundless tolerance to adult and child alike. I endeavor to keep my breath slow and calm. I speak as long as I am able to speak. When I can no longer speak I do my best to amiably nod. I remain at all times a gentleman. It’s not my fault. Bunny toys with me. Nothing about life in Tokyo ever prepared me for a rabbit. Now and then Bunny will even run figure-eights around my stocking feet. I myself am faultlessly discreet. But not Bunny. Bunny is shameless.