To the Girl and Her Rabbit

Listen to Brianna read this piece.

Apple podcastsGoogle podcastsListen on Spotify

By the time I made my way to the grocery check-out with a floppy-eared bunny from the “condolences” (or “conGRADulations!”) section, it dawned on me that the cashiers had seen it all before. Something about this all felt painfully played out in the throes of the tulip aisle, where it felt like you could pop in any Tuesday morning to see some tear-streaked girl fingering the limp leaves of the discounted flower bouquets.

This time, I was that girl. Yes, my eyeliner was streaking down my chin, and yes I was hiding between potted ferns and baby’s breath, but I ignored them. Instead, I’d spent last semester reading about other broken-hearted girls either running to or from the rez. In those stories, they found themselves either in the glassy eyes of stuffed bears, in men that tasted like full moons, or something else entirely. Something inexplicable.

I was hovering between all these choices so, naturally, I chose a bunny instead. As I scanned rows of bears and noodle-armed dolls, I remembered the last novel we read in class, where a therapist guided a woman into re-discovering her inner child. I squeezed the bunny’s tan paws between my fingertips, trying to unpeel the mystery. Somewhere within me was her that brought the bunny to the conveyor belt and into the hands of the cashier.

The cashier had kind honey eyes framed by a head scarf the same beige as the rabbit’s fur. She held him out at arm’s length, eyes narrowing as if to say yes, I see your red eyes and yes, you can get through this as she slid him through the scanner.

“This is such a cute rabbit,” she said, her smile pursing in concern. “He’s going to make a little girl out there very happy!”

I chuckled, too embarrassed to say I was that girl. Cradling him in a paper bag, I left, content to let her believe that he was for some imaginary little girl who loved bunnies as much as I did.

A few weeks later, I finally understood after headlines from Canada sparked the reveal of graves in Albuquerque. The grave markers dotting the grass felt like constellations pulling us back into orbit, one tiny orange flag at a time. In Albuquerque’s hidden grave, someone defaced the plaque describing the one hundred-twenty school children that lay buried in the center of town. Only cement scars remained, covered in tiny moccasins and red handprints. Orange ribbons swayed from the tree branches, and someone lovingly hung feathers from the leaves. It began with a single person, one bear, and a pair of moccasins. Now, a halo of animals huddled around the tree’s roots, their heads bowed as if in prayer.

I wrapped the arms of the bunny around the grave marker, realizing the cashier was right all along; all I had to do was listen to that quiet voice and she led me right to her, bunny in hand, dancing in the arms of swirling orange ribbons.

Brianna G. Reed is a student at the Institute of American Indian Arts.

Leave a Reply