Last Saturday morning, my pet rabbit passed away. It’s been almost a week now; it definitely feels like mourning, but I can’t quite elaborate beyond that. I’m functional, I don’t feel continuously sad, but it is a process for sure.
She lived in the dining room, which is where my “office” is (office means dining room table with my laptop and piles of disorganized papers and other crap.) I spend “internet time” here in my office. I write blog posts from my office. We’d sort of be hanging out, sort of not, while I was in my office. I’d be looking in on her – checking on her, all the time. Things feel disorienting now – her bunny gate is behind the TV right now. I can now glide from room to room with ease. her cage where she ate and drank and pooped and peed is in the basement right now. Her rug has been brought to the curb. The dining room is now a hard wood floor. She isn’t here. I keep having phantom impulses to go check on her, feed her, pet her, pick her up, etc.
She was 12 years old – that’s really old for a rabbit! I got her in my Junior year of college. For those last two years of college, it was pretty much just her and me, in the apartment. People didn’t come over. I didn’t have a social network. Later in her life, I would joke with friends that the reason she doesn’t like people is because she was never socialized properly. It’s pretty much true. She never really got used to other people (except my partner – she did like my partner a little bit).
She loved bananas! She loved being pet over her eyes, for some reason. She would just sit there, if you were covering her eyes with your hands. Her name was just “Bunny,” but usually I called her “Bunn-a-roo,” or “Choo-cha-ree” or “Choo-char-i-o” (that last one, sung to the tune of “Notorious” by Duran Duran). We called her “Bunn Ball” when she was compacted into herself, to conserve heat. We called it “Chicken Leg,” when she was all splayed out, her back legs totally exposed, trying to cool off. We called her “Bunny-on-Meth” when she was shedding, her fur coming out in tufts every which-way. We called the towel right outside her cage her “patio.”
My partner and I sometimes talk about pets as they relate to queer people. You know that stereotype about lesbians and cats? I think there’s something to that, although it’s not specific to lesbians and it’s not specific to cats… I think just more in general, people who do not follow prescribed narratives (whether they’re queer or not) sometimes find a very different space for pets in their lives. Sometimes pets become more like children. Sometimes people who face more adversity need more from their pets – more comfort, more routine, more of a sense that they are needed. A mutual reliance. I think that bond has the potential to run much deeper.
I felt that. I miss her.
Today was back to school day. What does “back to school” mean for a janitor? Well, for this janitor, It means not getting home from work until close to midnight. Blah! It means never seeing my partner (other than seeing her sleeping) during the work week. This will be new. Previously, she had mornings free too and worked later shifts. It’s going to be a big relationship-pattern change. So far we’ve been talking on the phone in the evenings, but, not the same! It also means doing the exact same thing, every single day, 180 times, until next summer. I’d be hard pressed to think of another job that is as isolating and routine-oriented as this one. Mail carrier, trash collector, …what else?
I’m grateful at least we have 2 months every summer where things get changed up. We get to work normal hours. (Well, close. It’s 6:30am till 3:00pm.) We get to work all together, as a team. And there’s all sorts of different, exciting things to get done. Scrubbing desks and chairs, getting the old wax up off floors and re-waxing, shampooing carpeting, lifting heavy things, moving and organizing stuff. At least it’s something different every day. And sometimes there are donuts!
During the school year though, we’re all on our own. I tend to be kind of rigid naturally, so I go through my work exactly the same way every day. I really think I need to challenge myself on this before it feels too mentally heavy. Things can get really heavy… Bleak, repetitive, draining, scary, lonely… Usually I listen to my iPod, and I read during break time, try to keep my mind active. I talk to my co-worker a little bit, but basically, I am alone. I’m kind of used to it by now, but also I want to preemptively plan ahead before things get really bad, in my head.