To climb up sheer rock you need a slot, a break in the wall, a sliver of opportunity. You pinch yourself between the rock walls, your back against one wall and feet against the other. Slowly you work your back upwards, then your feet, and repeat and repeat and repeat; maneuvering your body in a constant state of tension against the rock, using whatever small toehold or fingerhold you encounter. The higher one goes, the harder it is to brace against the rock as you tire and the slot widens. Yet one cannot let up the tension because you will have further to fall.
I fell back into a depressed state with no stable job and an uncertain future with an expiring visa. I scrounged around for freelance gigs from US companies since I could not work for Canadian companies as my work permit had expired. One day, Bob dragged me to the Humane Society insisting that I adopt a rabbit. I protested as I was unsure of my financial and mental capacity to take care of a pet, plus I never had pets before in my life – my mother forbade them. My only experience was helping to look after my Vancouver roommate’s rabbit named Chewy when he had to take daytrips to visit his mother in Victoria. Chewy was free roaming and made me realize that contrary to popular belief, rabbits have intelligence and personalities. I remember one hot summer night she was trying to get into my room and I put up a partial barricade against the door so I could keep it open for ventilation. She tried jumping over, pushing it down, sniffing it for openings etc. with no apparent success. I went to sleep after she gave up (or so I thought) only to be rudely awakened by a loud crash at 3am. I opened my eyes and Chewy was peering at me from the side of the mattress as if to say “Hey, I got in. You can’t stop me.” before hopping away.
The Humane Society had a wall of caged rabbits with a clipboard attached to each cage containing information such as age and gender and any history about the rabbit. I went over each one with trepidation, how would I know which rabbit to adopt? Was I supposed to feel an attraction or connection in order to know? Those feelings and situations are foreign to people with Schizoid or Antisocial (formerly known as Psychopath) disorders. But it is not such a bad thing, without the extreme detachment afforded by those disorders, I might not have survived what I had gone through. I went over each rabbit twice, sometimes thrice, partially going through the motions so I could make the excuse that I was still unsure.
As we were leaving the room, Bob asked “What about this one?” and pointed to what appeared to be an empty bank of cages on the opposite wall beside the doorway (so it was out of one’s line of sight when one entered). There was a solitary clipboard attached and I picked it up to read it and found a little dark grey rabbit hiding behind the clipboard. He was three years old and was recently returned to the Humane Society for the third time. I did not know if I had any capacity for love or for feeling, but I knew what it was like to be thrown away. I had a sense of comradeship with this little rabbit, and thought that even someone like me would be better than being forgotten alone in this forgotten area. “I’d like to adopt him” I said.
I brought him back to my apartment and put him in the area I had setup for him, a two-level enclosure built from an Ikea bureau and wire cube shelving. The enclosure was left open as it was intended to be his area, his sanctuary as opposed to being a cage. After some initial hesitation, he started exploring his new digs. I watched in amazement when he started redecorating – he disliked where I had placed the food and water dishes, the litterbox and hay so he began pushing and pulling them into the position he wanted them just so. Once he was satisfied with the feng shui of the place, he ventured outside the enclosure to explore. However he disliked the hardwood floor, he kept slipping when he walked on it. In a boss move (that I’ve thrown in people’s faces when they tell me that rabbits are passive or unintelligent), he grips the rug he is standing on inside his enclosure and flips it outside onto the hardwood floor so he could use it to continue exploring.
He kept peering inquisitively towards the bedroom when I went to bed that night, so I made a path for him from his area to the bedroom using towels and rugs. He immediately ran and leapt onto the bed and started checking it out and sniffing me all over. I decided then to name him Munchkin because I realized he is not just a pet but a little person. Some mornings I would wake and find him still sleeping beside me, or on my chest, it made me feel special – I have never felt special before.
I was faced with another problem. My Singapore passport was due to expire whilst waiting for my Canadian PR application to become unfrozen, however I could not return to Singapore and to renew it outside Singapore required proof of overseas employment. I reached out to Jeff, who had his own company, to see if he was able to help. He agreed to help by providing me with a letter of employment, and suggested I accompany him on his next trip to China and Hong Kong where I could earn some money as his translator.
Like a foster child, Munchkin was initially timid and shy and unsure of his new surroundings, then he became quite a handful as he misbehaved and constantly tested his boundaries. When it was clear to Munchkin I was not going to abandon him no matter what unlike the other people, he became a real sweetheart. When I left for the China and Hong Kong trip, Bob sent me a message “Munchkin stopped eating or drinking. What do I do?”. I felt helpless. There was nothing I could do halfway around the world. Munchkin must have thought I had abandoned him. Bob informed me Munchkin started eating and drinking again after 3 days and I was relieved.
Munchkin was on my mind that first night in China when Jeff’s vague intentions crystallized into us sharing a bed to save on hotel costs. I was unable to refuse as he had helped me so much though I drew the line at penetration; I did not want him to feel guilty afterwards, so it could be rationalized post-hoc as drunken indiscretions. I had been burnt in the past by married men misattributing their orgasms for connection. Sex was never enjoyable for me, but as an experienced courtesan (and I suppose as someone with Schizoid and Antisocial disorders) I was adept at reflecting their expectations and desires back at them.
When I returned from the trip, Munchkin refused to come near me or look at me. I tried bribing him with his favorite treats but he would go off to a corner of the room, turn his back toward me and stare at it. That is literally the rabbit equivalent of giving one the cold shoulder. After two weeks or so of this, Munchkin approached me while I was sitting cross-legged on the floor. He rubbed his chin against my knees, against my thighs, then he climbed onto my legs and chinned my arms and hands and chest and my face. He was marking me all over and I knew what it meant “You are mine. Don’t you forget it.” – I have never felt wanted by anyone before.
Munchkin was my first love – he liked me not because of what I could do, how I fit a specification, or how I made them look by association as was the case for people. Through Munchkin I slowly grew to understand what it is to love and be reciprocated, which opened the way for other bunnies to come into my life. I caught myself smiling involuntarily at my bunnies one day and I was shocked. It was a revelation. My smiles since childhood had always been a patterned facade to conventions and expectations, a survival mechanism as a queer, bipolar, schizoid, psychopath outsider. I was the one being rescued, not the other way round. When someone asked me why I rescued rabbits instead of dogs or cats, I replied:
Rabbits are shy inquisitive creatures with a unique quiet intelligence that people don’t understand or appreciate, and so keep them locked up in cages – just like me.
Munchkin towards the end of his time with me